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An ancient Chinese proverb reads, “Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.” In a comical manner, this proverb illustrates an important point - rice serves an essential function to the people of China. As the pivotal mediator between the Chinese people and the rice they consume, the weather, climate, and environment has played an integral role in rice’s production and utility, as well as the importance it plays within the culture. Ironically, something so integral to Chinese society may not indeed be sustainable for the future.
Before discussing the important inter-dynamics between rice, people and the environment, it is necessary to briefly review the importance of rice in China. Rice is the staple food source of China, a country containing over 1.3 billion residents. Chinese officials report that the per capita energy intake of food is around 2,600 calories, where ¾ of their protein and 5/6 of their caloric intake come from grain – primarily rice.28 The government has gone to great lengths to feed their ever burgeoning population and it is a monumental undertaking. China produces 35% of the world’s total rice production, ranging from 171 million to 191 million metric tons annually over the past decade.29
Chinese mythology has expounded upon many of the critical elements that pertain to human existence: the division of the heavens and the earth, the creation of man, and the origins of rice. According to legend, rice’s origin is begins during the aftermath of a devastating storm thousands of years ago.30 The lands and rivers were flooded and food sources were scarce; every type of plant life was destroyed and no animals could be found. Seeing the hardships the...
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...the fields during the monsoons would be almost impossible, and highly expensive. Other proposed remedies have their own specific costs and benefits, but as of yet no comprehensive, realistic solution has been developed.37 Until this occurs, the situation in China, and the world at large, gets worse by the day.
At this point in time, there are no signs suggesting that China will abandon their “rice culture”, and weather and climate will both influence and be impacted by rice production for years to come. Scientific research is advancing by the day and we will eventually find a solution to this rice methane problem. Hopefully, this paper has been able to illustrate how important the dynamic relationship between rice, the weather and climate, and Chinese society, and how a subject that on surface may appear to be dull to some can be rather exciting and educational.
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