Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
serve, to catalog, to understand, to protect. I found it particularly striking, however, that
the educational and interpretive materials at Pudacuo National Park, along with the guides'
narratives, focused almost exclusively on the park's natural features—its alpine lakes, its
assemblage of flora and fauna—and even on some of its notable geological features. Mean-
pect to see the trappings of Tibetan culture in and around the Shangri-La Old Town—with
its lamaseries, its wood-framed houses, and its stupas draped in colorful prayer flags—but
the park itself is a natural space cordoned off from cultural influence. 3
The Nu River case—where contestation between government agencies, hydropower cor-
porations, international NGOs, and local communities has raged for more than a dec-
ade—has illustrated the limits of popular environmental activism in China. This is one
of the remotest areas of the nation and one marked by poverty and illiteracy. As our Nu
homes may be inundated have any real knowledge of the projects or the time lines with-
in which they will be carried out (see also Mertha 2008). This lack of information among
people most affected raises several fundamental questions about environmental policy as
it relates to conservation: What does public participation in environmental advocacy look
like? As Arthur Mol and Neil Carter (2006) have noted, China's environmental governance
process is gradually changing to include more participation by civil society groups. These
groups include a proliferation of international NGOs as well as domestic NGOs and advo-
cacy groups currently numbering more than 3,000. However, in China it can be difficult
to unpack the designation nongovernmental organization ( feizhengfu zuzhi ), a somewhat
threatening-sounding term that political officials and NGOs themselves generally eschew
in favor of the more benign word social group ( shehui tuanti ). Indeed, the structures, ob-
jectives, and operating strategies of such groups can be quite eclectic. Yang Guobin (2005)
categorizes environmental NGOs into seven groups on the basis of their formal registration
voluntary groups; (4) Internet-based groups; (5) student environmental associations; (6)
university-affiliated research centers; and, most paradoxically, (7) government-organized
NGOs, or GONGOs.
Environmental NGOs face a range of problems in China, including the requirement to
register under the formal sponsorship of a government agency; a limited political and legal
framework that requires them to tread carefully or risk being closed down; and, like envir-
onmental NGOs everywhere, a critical shortage of funding for their operations (Tang and
Zhan 2008). They have also historically been barred by legal statute from gaining stand-
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