Julie SzeMay 19, 2015
Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis
University of California Press 2015
Julie Sze's new book opens by bringing readers into the wetlands of Dongtan, introducing us to an ambitious but unrealized project to create the "world's first great eco-city." Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis (University of California Press, 2015) considers Dongtan, the Chongming Island eco-development, suburban real estate developments, and other fantasies of wild and urban lives to explore the nature of eco-desire in contemporary China. Sze suggests that three factors undergird Chinese eco-desire: a technocratic faith in engineering, a reliance on authoritarian political structures to enable environmental improvements, and a discourse of "ecological harmony" between man and nature. The chapters of Fantasy Islands trace these phenomena as they have manifest in the context of the 2008 Olympics, the opening of a Tunnel-Bridge Expressway in 2010, the planning of an eco-city, the marketing of "Thames Town" and other European-oriented novelty towns on the outskirts of Shanghai, and the 2010 World Expo. It's a fascinating story for readers interested in modern China, urban history, and global studies of ecology and the environment!