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Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

China: The People's Hiking Revolution

As prosperity spreads across China, so does a passion for the outdoors. But can millions of new trekkers save Asia's vast wilderness from the march of development? Welcome to the world's next hiking frontier. PLUS, check out China's Top Treks.

by: Craig Simons, Photos by Matthieu Paley

Changhui downs a beer.
Changhui downs a beer.
Shatuo River campsite.
Shatuo River campsite.
Hiking behind the Chinese flag.
Hiking behind the Chinese flag.
Nationalism runs deep.
Nationalism runs deep.
Hiking through a garden.
Hiking through a garden.
A waterfall on Shatuo River.
A waterfall on Shatuo River.

Instead, we pitch our tents in a farmer's field. As with many Chinese parks, the boundaries of Chishui Alsophila Reserve were drawn between centuries-old villages, making terraced fields of rice and wheat part of the landscape. Farmhouses with white walls and gray tile roofs sit between towering oaks and carefully tended patches of cabbage and leek. It could be Nepal–without the teahouses and trekking hordes.

That sort of beauty is common to many Chinese villages. But earlier, when I suggested to a farmer that he was lucky to live in such an enchanting place, he shook his head.

"We hope the government builds a road soon," he said. "Then we can open a hotel."

His wish, while not entirely unexpected, serves as an abrupt reminder that China's environmental problems could soon become much, much more severe. While only 2 percent of Americans work on farms, 60 percent of China's 1.3 billion people live in rural areas–and most of them dream of moving to cities. If China's ratio approaches the U.S. figure, the environmental impacts will resonate around the world. China already is the world's top consumer of steel, coal, meat, and grain, and it's widely considered the world's largest market for endangered wildlife and illegally logged timber. The conservation group Wild Aid estimates that most of 100 million wild sharks, skates, and rays killed each year end up in Chinese soups. In its most recent annual report, the group states that "all the biological studies, the international treaties, the valiant efforts of the enforcement agencies, the billions of dollars spent on wildlife conservation will be for nothing if we cannot turn off [Chinese] demand."

The potential environmental costs of China's development have spurred green groups to aim conservation campaigns at average citizens. Wild Aid has run television ads showing basketball star Yao Ming swearing off shark fin soup. Environmental disasters are also changing views, as happened in the U.S. in the 1960s. When Cleveland's polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969, the environmental movement gained some of the momentum that led to passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. China will need more than one Cuyahoga River disaster to reach its tipping point. But that will likely happen. In 2005, an explosion at a chemical factory in northern China spilled 100 tons of carcinogenic benzene into the Songhua River, China's fourth-longest waterway. In 2007, Lake Tai, China's third-largest freshwater lake, became so polluted that the government shut off tap water to millions of people.

A groundswell of public anger about the disasters has pushed Beijing to pass more stringent environmental laws. In September 2007, officials declared that 15 percent of China's energy should come from renewable sources by 2020. Last June, the government enacted a nationwide ban on certain kinds of plastic bags. Real progress, to be sure, but at the local level, where statutes are enforced, officials allow profitable industries to pollute at will.

Most Chinese don't see a way of bridging the chasm between national laws and local enforcement without the bottom-up controls of a free press, aggressive advocacy groups, and an independent legal system, things the Communist Party has so far not allowed. Before my trip, I asked Zhong Yu, a Beijing-based Greenpeace staffer, if China has an emerging version of David Brower, the fire-and-brimstone Sierra Club president who helped push environmental awareness into the American mainstream. She shook her head. "Our NGOs face too many restrictions. The government doesn't want us to create ties with other groups, so there isn't any national coordination."

"The government isn't willing to let someone become as influential as Brower," said Zhong's friend, Tsering Norbu, a Tibetan who had worked for The Nature Conservancy. "They want to keep control."



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 08, 2014

Acute Trek Pvt. Ltd. an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative company takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Benefit, of course there is the Acute trek part of choice. We have your choose of trekking for 3 days or 30 or more days it depending of your timetable, sleep under lodges or tent. We always respect our duty to constantly your holiday satisfaction in Nepal. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. It is significant to memorize, though, it necessitate an enough level of physical homework and must remembers that there is also a psychosomatic assurance in walking in mountains. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Acute Trek specialize in organize Nepal travel activities excursion such as:- Nepal trekking, Helicopter tour, peak climbing, rafting, mountain flight, Kayaking, Cannoning, Bird watching Tour, Honeymoon Tour, sightseeing, jungle safari, rock climbing, Pilgrim's Tour, Hotel Reservation, air ticket, Tibet Tour, Bhutan Tour, Paragliding, Bungee Jump, Eco Tour, local village tour and many more.

We dedicated ourselves to take each step essential to provide you and skill you will dotingly look back upon not kind what it cost you, as you will be recurring a wealthier person full of reminiscences. We, trekking and tours company in Nepal that is very believable, responsible and fully offers personage, group, tailored travel and trekking excursions in Nepal. If you would like to explorer lifetime knowledge of trekking and visiting destination of different part of Nepal as well as tours to Bhutan and destination Tibet in a secure and safe mode, then we is the exact agency for you. Our trekking tours involve knowledge all aspect of country, the enormous historical sites, natural loveliness and wildlife, most prominently, they give you the opportunity to get with local people and to see their custom first hand. Further you need not have to be an sportsperson, as trekking in Nepal and between the people is itself an well knowledge as trekking, tour, hiking is not climbing. Anyone with a join up to strong legs and strength of adventure to discover the exotic will pleasurable the excitement of trekking, tours and charming discovery.

http://www.trekshimalaya.com

Star Star Star Star Star
Hiking in Nepal
Mar 08, 2014

Hiking in Nepal an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative company takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Benefit, of course there is the Hiking in Nepal part of choice. We have your choose of trekking for 3 days or 30 or more days it depending of your timetable, sleep under lodges or tent. We always respect our duty to constantly your holiday satisfaction in Nepal. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. It is significant to memorize, though, it necessitate an enough level of physical homework and must remembers that there is also a psychosomatic assurance in walking in mountains. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Hiking in Nepal specialize in organize Nepal travel activities excursion such as:- Nepal trekking, Helicopter tour, peak climbing, rafting, mountain flight, Kayaking, Cannoning, Bird watching Tour, Honeymoon Tour, sightseeing, jungle safari, rock climbing, Pilgrim's Tour, Hotel Reservation, air ticket, Tibet Tour, Bhutan Tour, Paragliding, Bungee Jump, Eco Tour, local village tour and many more.

We dedicated ourselves to take each step essential to provide you and skill you will dotingly look back upon not kind what it cost you, as you will be recurring a wealthier person full of reminiscences. We, trekking and tours company in Nepal that is very believable, responsible and fully offers personage, group, tailored travel and trekking excursions in Nepal. If you would like to explorer lifetime knowledge of trekking and visiting destination of different part of Nepal as well as tours to Bhutan and destination Tibet in a secure and safe mode, then we is the exact agency for you. Our trekking tours involve knowledge all aspect of country, the enormous historical sites, natural loveliness and wildlife, most prominently, they give you the opportunity to get with local people and to see their custom first hand. Further you need not have to be an sportsperson, as trekking in Nepal and between the people is itself an well knowledge as trekking, tour, hiking is not climbing. Anyone with a join up to strong legs and strength of adventure to discover the exotic will pleasurable the excitement of trekking, tours and charming discovery. http://www.holidayhiking.com

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd http://www.trekshimalaya.com an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable http://www.adventurestrekking.com adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable http://www.hikingsinnepal.blogspot.com outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

steven newman
May 10, 2012

I have journeyed entirely on foot and with a backpack the lengths of Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan. Soon I will be doing China. In all my journeys--including my solo walk around the world in the 1980s--I focus on the people. As a writer, I have always considered the people of this world to be my inspiration. This article has made me all the more eager to explore the people of China.

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