5 Myths About China and the Environment – National Geographic News Watch


Delighted to share with you the news of a recent guest blog post that I contributed to the National Geographic website, in their News Watch section.

The post is titled “5 Myths about China and the Environment” and highlights some of the misconceptions about China’s environmental issues that I’ve come across over the years covering these issues. Below is the first one.

Myth 1. Reintroduction of the Giant Panda Into the Wild Has Been a Success

Natural forests cover about 10 percent of China’s surface area, but few of the forests remain in a primary or pristine condition. Large swathes of forest have been destroyed by human activities, which include logging, wood collection, and mining. The giant panda is one species that has been affected by these changes. Has captive breeding and reintroduction into the wild been a success?

“So far the success rate is 100 percent failure,” according to Sarah Bexell from the Chengdu Panda Breeding Center in Sichuan Province.

“But the good thing is that one panda was reintroduced,” reports Bexell. “His name was Xiang Xiang and he actually did quite well until breeding season. He was attacked by other males and later died of the injuries.”

Bexell warned that there have been several challenges for reintroduction. “First, we are not yet saving land appropriately for wildlife, she said.

“Second is the issue of behavioral competency of animals born and raised in captivity. Third are concerns of passing disease to wild individuals, or compromised immunity of captive individuals once released. Finally, there are human social issues, like potential poaching of reintroduced animals,” she said.

You can find the other four on the National Geographic Website.


This post is in conjunction with the release of my new eBook, MELTDOWN: China’s Environment Crisis, which you can download from iTunes or Amazon via the links below.



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  1. Sean,

    Thank you for this great book and making it so accessible to anyone who wants to take a look into China’s ongoing environmental challenges. Travelling across the country to pull these five topics together must have been both an incredibly rewarding and haunting experience. Your images pull together a twisted mix of beauty, destruction, economic needs, and personal loss in ways that few other types of photographs can, a skill you and Michael Wolf seem to have in common. Looking forward to finishing the read in the coming week.



    • Taylor,

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, the travels were long and sometimes difficult, but I am pleased this work has come together in the eBook. We really wanted to make this accessible to as many people as possible. Please do share your thoughts again when you’ve finish the book. Always interested to hear feedback.


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