In The Ecology of War, Micah Muscolino analyzed warfare and its ecological implications as metabolism in the context of Henan Province (roughly) during Sino-Japanese war. Adapting McNeil’s somatic energy regime, three important points were made at the beginning: 1) Energy extraction for military purposes would be pervasive in the energy pyramid (7-10). 2) By tracing energy chain, one can overcome boundaries and connect isolated localities and industries. 3) Intervention into the energy flow would cause great losses to every actor in the process and cause disarray of energy and power. Tracing energy chains, research extended to refugees who migrated to Shaanxi* and affluent regions that assisted in reconstruction after 1945. Overall Muscolino concluded that ecological crisis in Henan was caused by an unsustainable militarization of environment to support the war, generating enormous and long-lasting disasters to nature and culture in this region and beyond. (wipeout of high forest, erosion and salinization, corruption, CCP dominance, cruel cadres, irrationality?) Not so unfamiliar an observance was that expenses and limited gains were not equally allocated.
Not consulting unique archives or collecting first-hand resources, this book could be (or attempted to be) viewed as a re-narration of wartime socioeconomic, cultural, and political history through the perspective of ecology and energy flow. By centering environment which used to be a supporting or explanatory element of war, the author points out the wartime from Huayuankou Incident to effective reconstruction in late 1940s just one episode of environmental curse Henan and North China face for longer timespan. The ostensible balance recaptured after war was an even larger shortfall just concealed by food import, abuse of chemicals, and exploitation of peasants. Resulting from this decade long severe energy shortfall, irrationality and top-down coercion haunted and paved the way towards the story Pietz told in the second half of his book on Yellow River. One critique about this book is the fuzziness in its body in contrast to a clear framework proposed in the introduction. The main analysis, touching on energy flow, didn’t draw a clear map. I still saw an inclination to dichotomize nature and culture through his organization of materials.
Better ways to organize the book?