The tension between development and environmental protection in China has been most keenly felt in relation to air quality, but extends to many other spheres. Campaigners recently rejoiced at the apparent abandonment of plans to dam the Nu river, which one activist hailed as “a triumph for Chinese civil society.”
Similar protest has long dogged plans for damming to regulate water levels in Jiangxi’s Poyang Lake. The largest freshwater lake in the country, Poyang is a vital stop for tens of thousands of migratory birds and a crucial breeding ground for the critically endangered Yangtze finless porpoise. But natural seasonal fluctuations in the lake’s area have been destabilized by drought and sand dredging for construction, with the Three Gorges Dam another likely factor. The lake’s value as a habitat is now threatened by both continued shrinkage and the effects of proposed countermeasures, including flooding of the birds’ wetlands. In recent years, critics ranging from the Chinese Academy of Sciences to the World Wildlife Fund have warned that a proposed water conservancy project might do more harm than good.
Last week, a local construction official told them not to worry. From Sina Weibo, via CDT Chinese:
China Business Journal (@中国经营报): [Will dam construction at Poyang Lake destroy a paradise for migratory birds? Poyang Construction Bureau: “Survival of the fittest: birds can change their dietary habits.”] Since the inception of plans for the water conservancy project at Poyang Lake, voices have continuously arisen in opposition: “Damming would destroy a paradise for migratory birds!” But facing challenges on the issue, the deputy director of Jiangxi’s Poyang Construction Bureau Ji Weitao said: human beings die in pursuit of wealth; birds die seeking food. If there’s not enough grass for them to eat, according to survival of the fittest, they can catch fish, or find corn or sweet potatoes in the farmers’ fields. “We helped white cranes by giving them little fish, and they all ate them.” Ji Weitao said that at worst, the birds could change the composition of their diets to find a way to survive. [Chinese]
CDT Chinese editors gathered several critiques of Ji’s argument from Sina Weibo:
cloze (@cloze): So he’s saying that we don’t need to protect pandas and tigers? We can just let things run their course, and they’ll figure something out for themselves?
Hahahazhirong (@哈哈哈志荣): These officials’ IQs are not bad. After so many years of eating grain, telling them to go and eat grass roots, as “survival of the fittest.”
ZhanzhengshiyanjiuWHS (@战争史研究WHS): “If there’s not enough grass for them to eat, according to survival of the fittest, they can catch fish, or find corn or sweet potatoes in the farmers’ fields.” Great news for zoos. Don’t give the elephants grass to eat, they can go and catch fish. Whoosh, sucking them up with their trunks: one trunkful for them to eat, another for the zookeepers. If there are any left over, they can take them to market to sell.
Xiyanpianzi___heizumaozuiaichi (@戏言骗子_黑足猫最爱吃): Awesome! China’s officials can all manage birds instead!
Gaojiuheng (@高久恒): Birds are quite capable of self-sufficiency, they can start a little allotment, plant some grains and vegetables, maybe raise pigs
Yizhidouhuihenanjing (@一直都会很安静): Maybe the birds over there can be forced to learn to order take-out. It’d not only accelerate the birds’ evolution, but also spur economic development. Thinking about it, it’s a really good idea!
Zhugong (@朱拱): Once the birds have evolved, they can also eat people [picks nose]
Santi321 (@三体321): Director Ji can adjust the composition of his diet, and switch to eating shit, contributing to the cause of the motherland’s sanitation.
Baifenzhi1guoke (@百分之1过客): Why does that article not quote scientists, only officials??
DoctorWilson (@DoctorWilson): They should encourage the birds to move to the city and buy homes ~
Guaishouheluomo (@怪兽和萝莉): White cranes can switch to eating gutter oil; finless porpoises can lose weight by migrating against the current; Shanghai people can switch to drinking seawater. We survived the Great Leap Forward, we can make it through this!
Fanghenshaoshao007 (@方恨少少007): Survival of the fittest, just like in the Great Leap Forward! When you’re busy, eat straw; at leisure, drink gruel! If there’s no food, tree bark or clay can allay your hunger. What, you’ve starved to death? Oh, Three Years of Natural Calamities, nothing we can do about it!
WangWxiaoXdongD (@汪W晓X东D): The honorable Party still believes it has grasped the Truth of the Universe, and can even bring avian evolution under management. Say, will the most highly evolved birds be able to join the Party?
PsychicStorm (@PsychicStorm: Could some of these officials evolve the ability to eat shit? Oh … they already have [Chinese]