Outlook for China’s Environment? What do the Environmental Kuznets Curve and the Experiences of Other East Asian Countries Tell Us


I use the imperfect but useful concept of the Environmental Kuznets Curve to analyze the prospects for solving the environmental problems now facing China.  The talk uses a wide range of historical statistics to classify these problems according to a heuristic “solvability index” based on the biophysical and sociopolitical tractability of these problems, as well as on the histories of how they have been addressed in countries that have faced them earlier: Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea.  In doing so, I will also present a partial critique of the Environmental Kuznets Curve while affirming its limited utility as a heuristic device.

About the Speaker

Professor Stevan Harrell taught China studies, environmental studies, and anthropology at the University of Washington for 43 years, and he has done field research in Taiwan since 1970 and in Liangshan Sichuan since 1988, and now he’s retired and lives in Bellingham. His vast publications include numerous articles and books such as Culture Change in Postwar Taiwan, Co-edited with Huang Chün-chieh (1994), Human Families (1997), Mountain Patterns: The Survival of Nuosu Culture in China (with Bamo Qubumo and Ma Erzi) (2000), Fieldwork Connections: A Story of International Collaboration (with Bamo Ayi and Ma Lunzy) (2007), Explorers and Scientists in China’s Borderlands, 1880-1950. Co-edited with Denise M. Glover, Margaret B. Swain, and Charles F. Mckhann (2011), and Transformations of Chinese Patriarchy (co-edited with Gonçalo Santos) (2016), Southwest China on the Eve of the Communist Takeover: G. William Skinner’s Field Journals from Sichuan, 1949-50. (co-edited with William Lavely) (forthcoming, 2017).
He is now co-editing a volume on Environmentalism in East Asia, and working on an ecological history of modern China.

This event is co-sponsored by UBC Centre for Chinese Research; UBC Department of History