Red Dust Rising
1st February, 2004
If you want evidence that global warming is happening, you need only look to China. Unseen by the rest of the world, much of the north of the country is turning into a land of droughts, dust storms and deserted villages.
Duolun, Inner Mongolia
‘You are very tall,’ were Su Yi’s first words when he joined me at the bus station of the busy Beijing suburb. A researcher working with China’s Desertification Institute, he was in his 30s, and had black hair, big glasses and something of a sense of humour. ‘I think you are looking very English today,’ he went on with a cheerful smile.
We left Beijing via a congested dual carriageway lined with poplars, and headed north towards the Inner Mongolian grasslands that border the immense Gobi Desert. The road led first through the Yan Shan mountains, their slopes steep and craggy, their soaring peaks lost in the distant haze. As the bus began to climb, the Great Wall itself came into view: traversing sheer mountain ridges, it was guarded intermittently by crumbling watchtowers perched precariously on each successive peak. On the rocky slopes fruit trees blossomed with pink and white flowers.
Further on, the terrain flattened out, the mountains suddenly giving way to farmland. Despite the hot sun, people were hard at work, digging up maize roots with broad, flat spades and preparing the earth for the next crop. In smaller plots...
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