Advisor: William Burch
China is increasingly coming to terms with the disastrous environmental effects of its last 60 years of developmental policy, and attempting to restore some of the ecosystems degraded by these policies. These policies, for the most part, were implemented in ecosystems that were already degraded to varying degrees by local use in the centuries previous to the revolution, and thus particularly vulnerable to misguided developmental policies. Even as it turns "green" however, the state continues to propose solutions involving top-down management, capitalist entrepreneurship, or both, leaving little leeway for local communities to develop sustainable resource-use practices in accord with either their traditional ecological knowledge or modern ecological science.
As a group of multidisciplinary researchers from ecology, geology, and anthropology, we use the case of the Nuosu (Yi) communities of the Baiwu Valley in southwestern Sichuan to illustrate the degree to which the ecosystem before the advent of Communist policies may already have lost resilience, along with the effects of the last 60 years of CCP policy and practice on the ecology and society of the Valley. We emphasize historical damage, current vulnerability, and the ways that traditional knowledge and modern science might combine to raise hopes for a more sustainable future.