Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River
Nature and Power in the People's Republic of China
China’s meteoric rise to economic powerhouse might be charted with dams. Every river in the country has been tapped to power exploding cities and factories—every river but one. Running through one of the richest natural areas in the world, the Nujiang’s raging waters were on the verge of being dammed when a 2004 government moratorium halted construction. Might the Chinese dragon bow to the "Angry River"? Would Beijing put local people and their land ahead of power and profit? Could this remote region actually become a model for sustainable growth?
Ed Grumbine traveled to the far corners of China’s Yunnan province to find out. He was driven by a single question: could this last fragment of wild nature withstand China’s unrelenting development? But as he hiked through deep-cut emerald mountains, backcountry villages, and burgeoning tourist towns, talking with trekking guides, schoolchildren, and rural farmers, he discovered that the problem wasn’t as simple as growth versus conservation.
In its struggle to "build a well-off society in an all-round way," Beijing juggles a host of competing priorities: health care for impoverished villagers; habitat for threatened tigers; cars for a growing middle class; clean air for all citizens; energy to power new cities; rubber for the global marketplace.
Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River is an incisive look at the possible fates of China and the planet. Will the Angry River continue to flow? Will Tibetan girls from subsistence farming families learn to read and write? Can China and the United States come together to lead action on climate change? Far-reaching in its history and scope, this unique book shows us the real-world consequences of conservation and development decisions now being made in Beijing and beyond.
“There is no other book that comes close to Where the Dragon Meets the Angry River for pulling readers into the wild ride of China’s rise. If you want to understand the growing force of nature that is China, Grumbine’s account is the best place to begin.”
“Discussions of China’s economic and environmental landscape often leave out a key issue—its people. This important and enjoyable book brings their stories to life. In Grumbine’s capable hands, hunters, weavers, and school children stop being statistics and start being individuals you can’t help but care about.”
“Ed Grumbine spent decades working with federal land managers and teaching classes in the mountains, canyons, and universities of the American west. Some years ago, he took on mastery of the complex biogeography and anthropology of southwest China: especially Yunnan (south of the clouds) Province. He made many trips to China (and read exhaustively) and met the right people to get a solid grasp of the dilemmas that the current government is both creating and grappling with. I don't know a better introduction to the problems of China and its environment—its border peoples, impoverished farmers, and threatened plants and animals—than this book right now.”
“A must-read for anyone interested in the environmental movement in China. Through his lucid description of the development versus conservation divide on the Nu (Angry) River in Yunnan Province, Grumbine illustrates how, through transforming nature, China's attitudes toward nature are also being transformed.”
Chapter 2: The Frontier and the Middle Kingdom
Chapter 3: Under the Jade Dragon
Chapter 4: Old Mountains, Young Parks
Chapter 5: In the Land of Twelve Thousand Rice Fields
Chapter 6: Into the Great Green Triangle
Chapter 7: The Dragon Meets the Angry River
Chapter 8: China 2020
Chapter 9: Conservation with Chinese Characteristics