Loretta Lou, Department of Sociology, University of Warwick
Decades of unrestrained development has led to some serious environmental problems in China and Taiwan today. While sustainable development and effective enforcement of pollution control remain a challenging task for both governments, we begin to see a variety of creative responses from the bottom-up.
In this Toxic News issue, we feature four articles that discuss such endeavours in detail. The first article by Yu-Rong Joy Liu describes the complex mix of pride and bitterness among communities that live in or near coal-mining sites in Shanxi, China. She examines how local residents articulated their circumstances and re-fashioned their identities in relation to the central government’s ‘War on Air Pollution’ and ‘Ecological Civilization’.
The second article by Lu Zhijian, an NGO worker and former Water Quality Inspector in China, provides valuable insight into water monitoring in the country and calls for collective actions to protect our water sources as it is clear that state-of-the-art water purification technologies are by no means a panacea for water pollution.
Our third article by Adam Liebman reviews Jiu-Liang Wang’s influential documentary Plastic China, which depicts the everyday joys and suffering of waste sorting and the complex relations between waste, value, labour, and justice.
Finally, my own contribution introduces Taiwanese rock band Sheng-Xiang & Band and their successful album Village Besieged – the world’s first music album about the human tragedies of petrochemical pollution. From villagers to water gatekeeper and filmmaker to musicians, I hope this issue showcases the diverse responses to toxic pollution and offers inspirations for future interventions.