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When A Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind -- Or Destroy It Paperback – Oct 26 2010

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (Oct. 26 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141658076X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416580768
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #302,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A fascinating, engaging and beautifully written book. It is a masterpiece."
--George Monbiot, author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning

About the Author

Jonathan S. Watts graduated with a BA in religious studies from Princeton University in 1989 and an MA in human sciences from the Saybrook Institute in 2002. He has been a researcher at the Jodo Shu Research Institute in Tokyo since 1999 and the International Buddhist Exchange Center since 2005. He has also been an associate professor of Buddhist studies at Keio University, Tokyo, and has been on the executive board of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) since 2003. He has coauthored and edited Never Die Alone: Birth as Death in Pure Land Buddhism, Rethinking Karma: The Dharma of Social Justice, This Precious Life: Buddhist Tsunami Relief, and Anti-Nuclear Activism in Post 3/11 Japan.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When wrapping up this amazing book on the Environmental Crisis in CN, I was reminded of a great, but similarly gut-wrenching piece of non-fiction, Will Smith's portrayal of Chris Gardner in the 2006 movie 'The Pursuit of Happyness'. For those who haven't seen it, it's a dreadfully sad, but ultimately uplifting movie , about a young father trying to build a life for himself and his young son. Based on a true story, it's amazing, scary, depressing, and yet wildly inspiring. Although it was a good movie, ultimately the experience suffered since 98% of the movie is total downer. The story Jonathan Watts takes us on, sadly, follows a similar path. You can see the arc, as Watts trucks around CN, meeting the locals, and reporting the story on the various aspects of the environment; from the dusty farmers, to the most brilliant scientists in the country, he attempts valiantly to end the book on a high note.

As Watts puts it, CN is on a mission to beat the crap out of Math. How? Well, looking at the numbers, the throngs of CN people, the vastness of its land, the mountains of trash, the unimaginable statistics on pollution' it's tempting to throw in the towel, but Watts won't have any of it. For its part, CN is putting all its money behind the greatest scientists on Earth, and figuring out how to get cleaner water/energy, and bigger, juicier produce. The race is between a frenetic population growth and the dwindling resources that keep them all going.

On the ground in rural CN, there is a wispy paradoxical mirage, at once a driving force, and impossible to validate, and that is the dream, the delusion, that getting rich will make all the problems in the world go away.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa6d47dbc) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6969c18) out of 5 stars Dystopian view of the future - because of China Oct. 29 2010
By Christian Kober - Published on
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because, having lived in China for so long, I am always happy to gain new and different perspectives on China. Therefore I bought this book in a local bookshop, yearning to gain some insights into the Chinese environmental malaise. Ever since I have come to China in the 90s I have read about the looming environmental desaster in China.
China is fashionable. They all write about it, China will be dominant, will threaten all our jobs, will collaps.... Never is there a book that simply says 'China will continue to muddle through'.
This book mostly falls into the dystopian category. China is the refuge of last resort for all poisonous garbage of the world. China will consume enough coal to singlehandedly convert the world into a greenhouse. Etc. etc. The author tries valiantly to be evenhanded. He acknowledges that the rest of the world have outsourced their environmental problems to China. Many dirty industries in richer countries have not been cleaned up, they have been closed down. Thus the West has become greener and now scolds China for being dirty. The author also acknowledges the gargantuan efforts China has undertaken to clean up its environment.
Thus he is surprisingly fair and evenhanded. Yet in the end basically his vision is a dark one. China will not be able to handle its environmental problems and thus will become a major desaster zone. Like so often, he simply extrapolates the present into the future, not taking into account that humans react to changing circumstances and have been surprisingly adept at dealing with changing circumstances.
Nevertheless the book provides a compelling picture of a China in flux, a nation which tries to find its path. And, as mentioned before, he also makes it very clear that China is not the only culprit for the environmental impact it has.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6969f90) out of 5 stars Billiant but sobering book Feb. 13 2011
By Christopher R. Bennett - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As he journeys the length and breadth of China he observes the impact of China's--and the world's--development on the land, flora and fauna. It is a very sad and worrying tale, which fills in many of the pieces of the puzzle that I saw while working there.

I didn't appreciate that while we were busy planting trees on our road projects, that they came from but two types of poplars and the lack of biodiversity is having a major negative impact on the bird life. While I saw the grim conditions of many workers, I didn't know that much of what we recycle in the west ends up in these dark, dank factories in China where it is processed with no regard to the workers or the environment. I knew that by building improved infrastructure we were permitting factories to relocate inland, but I didn't appreciate that this was also transferring the pollution problem inland. I always was worried about the quality of the vegetables and other products, now I see that there was good cause to be.

After cataloging the litany of problems faced by China, the author turns to the possibilities in terms of the adoption of green technologies, etc. Unfortunately, against the backdrop of the problems one has to wonder whether China has passed a point of no return with addressing its environmental issues. I do hope not, but the signs are not good.

This is a must read book for anyone involved with development in China, or who are interested in the environment and sustainability. Both fascinating and disturbing, the author deserves credit for the breadth and scope of his work.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6961b70) out of 5 stars Be Aware April 18 2012
By M. D. Laird - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This detailed analysis of China's progress is an eye opener to not only changes taking place in China but to the influence that other counties have on China. China's interest in Canadian tar sands, Brazilian rain forest, Russian forests, and African industry (of which I was already aware)is of concern as are the changes taking place in Tibet and in the Inner Mongolian grasslands. Western civilisation is quick to critisise China's pollution levels and practices but is not prepared to take any blame or realise that their own contribution to world pollution has exceeded Chinas' to date. For all who are concerned about climate and political change, in our world, take the time to read this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6969f30) out of 5 stars Everything's connected. Feb. 10 2012
By Sophie - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Maybe it was an expression just in my family to mean that something's absurdly unrelated--but as a kid, I used to hear "What's THAT got to do with the tea in China?" And "A Billion Chinese" gives us the answer (so to speak). In fact, it even conveys that, specifically, "Guangdong is where China and your life intersect."

Extensively researched, heavily annotated, this book offers stunningly detailed notes on Chinese culture and history. You'll encounter here, by turn, the country's contemporary pop icons, novelists, national park directors, along with a little Confucius and sayings of Chairman Mao. Jonathan Watts' work traverses travelogue, historical account, anthropological study, environmental reporting, and socio-political commentary. (Until the 1990s, signs on cages in the Beijing Zoo described what parts of the animal could be eaten, or used in Chinese medicine. . . . Under contentious study is whether Sichuan's mega-dams contributed to its recent earthquake . . . Land development follows the "US model of suburban villas and car commutes," etc.) The wonder is that Watts accomplishes all this in about 300 pages (not counting another 100, or so, of fine-print notes and references).

This is a must-read for anyone making a study of China, or planning travel there.

But beyond that, what's it got to do with the rest of us? It's on that score that this book is particularly powerful and significant. He reports, yes, how the Developed World outsources the darker consequences of its consumption--beginning a chapter with the image of a plastic bag (recycled!) from a Western grocery chain, billowing atop a Chinese schoolyard tree. But more: Watts describes the impacts of a China that is simply in the vanguard of any society now pursuing economic development and wealth, while being largely heedless of the welfare of its environment and people. And that might include more of us than just the Chinese . . . .
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6969a38) out of 5 stars A powerful and scary expose that you won't forget May 5 2012
By Sandy Maguire - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, layered in great detail, brilliantly covers the many environmental harms practiced throughout China at great expense to human health and life, the land, water resources, animals, and air quality with no thought for the future. The reader goes on a remarkable journey with the author and the people he meets as each chapter reveals specific mistakes of policies that reflect the harmful reality that we'll use our valuable resources now in unsafe ways with no thought of long term effects. EXPLOIT TODAY AND PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW EVEN IF WE KNOW BETTER is the overall policy. The author, Jonathan Watts, a noteworthy journalist, the Asia environment correspondent for The Guardian covers the material in a straight forward manner and allows the reader to see in vivid detail the ultimate price this powerful nation is paying and will continue to pay. It is not an uplifting book but full of sorrow but one that should be taught in high schools and colleges. This book has made me think deeply of so many environmental decisions that affect all of mankind.