Ashley Scott Kelly

Scales of Environmentalism

Instructor: Ashley Scott Kelly

At The University of Hong Kong

Course abstract

Large dams are among the most singular, monumental constructions of any modernization project. Many of China's conservation efforts are rooted in the construction of waterworks, environmental disasters and mass deforestation of the Mao period, which tends to be eclipsed by the surficial acknowledgment that "opening up" and venturing out has caused widespread environmental catastrophe. Issues of rural poverty, underdevelopment, ambiguous tenure, etc., abound in China's mineral-rich West, where mining operations and plans for hydropower development move hand-in-hand with the delineation and revision of conservation areas and tourism initiatives. A slow-down in dam construction in recent years, despite the high renewable energy targets of the Western Development Campaign, is attributed to local politics.

2013 marked the 30-year anniversary of the first established nature preserve in China's Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Area (TPR). The UNESCO site proper is constituted of 15 core areas, which, connected by buffer zones, amount to eight contiguous "sub-units" spread over an area of 50,000 square kilometers. This fragmentation is not isolated to the TPR area but characteristic of China as a whole, both physically and administratively, illustrating conservation and the creation of wilderness as a political and economic tool. We use hydropower planning as a lens to understand these processes as not resultant from a central planning mechanism, China at-large, but instead developed out of complex political-economic productions institutionalized within conservation, technology and rural development.

This course expands the repertoire of the design disciplines to extra-urban, extra-social geographies of global, paramount importance. It is Design's agency to at once navigate the highly physical controls of mapped boundaries (topography, tenure, resources, etc.) and the political motivations, imaginations, and scientific metrics that necessitate their formation and that may potentially offer a platform for ecological resolution and stewardship. The disciplines' ability to distill complex physical features, coupled with Modernism's historic interest in development planning, is used to narrate several lines of inquiry, including: Seasonal reconnection of lakes with the Yangtze; Resettlement for both energy and conservation; and Rural development via "small hydropower" in Yunnan.

Xijiang regional hydropower construction, resettlement, and regulation. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Xijiang regional hydropower construction, resettlement, and regulation. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Project introduction. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Project introduction. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Urbanization and water delivery infrastructure development of the Pearl River Delta. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Urbanization and water delivery infrastructure development of the Pearl River Delta. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Information visualization for Pearl River Delta hydropower. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Information visualization for Pearl River Delta hydropower. By WANG Yang Vincent, 2012.
Changes in farming practices of ethnic minorities before and after relocation due to hydropower development. By LI Perry, 2012.
Changes in farming practices of ethnic minorities before and after relocation due to hydropower development. By LI Perry, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By ZHANG Yucong Viola, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By ZHANG Yucong Viola, 2012.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By LI Haoxin Yan, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By LI Haoxin Yan, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By LI Haoxin Yan, 2013.
Small hydropower production in the Nujiang valley, Yunnan. By LI Haoxin Yan, 2013.