In the mid-1940s, the discovery of a living metasequoia glyptostroboides in China made international headlines. American naturalists sought to influence the Nationalist government’s policy to protect the species, although many retained doubts about the regime’s capability to do so. These naturalists also feared that local communities threatened the tree’s continued existence. This article examines how notions of responsibility informed American discussions about attitudes toward environmental protection, scientific knowledge production, and the duties of state and society concerning these matters in China. This way of thinking about China reflected not only an older discourse about China’s capacity to initiate Western-inspired change, but also the weak state of the government of the Republic of China and new approaches to nature protection after 1945. The Nationalist government’s retreat from the mainland coincided with an acceptance among American naturalists that the Chinese state and its society lacked responsible attitudes for American-styled environmental protection.
H. H. Hu“How Metasequoia, The “Living Fossil” was Discovered in China,”Journal of the New York Botanical Garden49 (September 1948): 202–203. More details are available in Guofan Shao et al. “Zhan Wang (1911–2000)” Taxon 49 (August 2000): 593–96; Milton Silverman “Science Makes a Spectacular Discovery” San Francisco Chronicle 25 March 1948 pp. 1–3.
Mark V. Barrow Jr.Nature’s Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press2009) chapter 6; Emily Wakild “Border Chasm: International Boundary Parks and Mexican Conservation 1935–1945” Environmental History 14 no. 3 (July 2009): 453–75. See als Roderick Frazier Nash Wilderness and the American Mind 4th edition (New Haven ct: Yale University Press 2001) especially chapter 16.
W. C. Cheng to Merrill 19 July1939folder 1 series 1 box 1 mgscaaa.
H. H. Hu to Merrill 7 March1938ibid.
Hu to Merrill 22 August1938ibid.
Hu to Merrill 14 June1938ibid.
Chi-ting Kwei“Science, Education and China’s Reconstruction,”Scientific MonthlyNovember 1943 p. 426. See also E. Elena Songster “Cultivating the Nation in Fujian’s Forests: Forest Policies and Afforestation Efforts in China 1911–1937” Environmental History 8 no. 3 (July 2003): 468.
J. Linsley Gressitt“The California Academy-Lingnan Dawn-Redwood Expedition,”Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences28 (15 July 1953): 25–58; Kwei-Ling Chu and William S. Cooper “An Ecological Reconnaissance in the Native Home of Metasequoia Glyptostroboides” Ecology 31 no. 2 (April 1950): 260–78.
Gressitt“The California Academy-Lingnan Dawn-Redwood Expedition” p. 25; Chu and Cooper “An Ecological Reconnaissance in the Native Home of Metasequoia Glyptostroboides” pp. 275 276; Chaney “Redwoods in China”444.
Tom Gill“Third World Forestry Congress,”Journal of Forestry47 no. 1 (November 1949): 868–72; Fred Mallery Packard “International Technical Conference on the Protection of Nature” Journal of Forestry 47 no. 1 (November 1949): 875–76; S. B. Show “United Nations Scientific Conference on the Conservation and Utilization of Resources” Journal of Forestry 47 no. 1 (November 1949): 873–74.
Chaney“Redwoods in China” p. 444. See also Chu and Cooper “An Ecological Reconnaissance in the Native Home of Metasequoia Glyptostroboides” p. 276; “Dean Pound Stirred by Finding Of Metasequoia Tree in China” p. 2.
F. R. Fosberg“The Problem of Rare and Vanishing Plant Species” and John Ramsbottom, “Disappearance of Plant Species,”in Proceedings and Papers of the International Technical Conference on the Protection of Naturepp. 504 532.
Ralph W. ChaneyRedwoods of the Past (San Francisco: Save-the-Redwoods League1951); Chaney to John F. Kautz 2 November 1948 and Michiji Taima to Chaney 5 October 1949 folder “Metasequoia general” box 5 rwcpuol. See also S. Miki to Chaney 24 December 1949 ibid.