|China is building a Great Green Wall of trees to stop desertification|
The Chinese government first conceived of the Green Wall project in the late 1970s to combat desertification along the country’s vast northwest rim. Soon thereafter, China’s top legislative body passed a resolution requiring every citizen over the age of 11 to plant at least 3 Poplar, Eucalyptus, Larch and other saplings every year to reinforce official reforestation efforts.
However, the situation is only getting worse with overall forest cover by 11,500 square miles (2000 - 2010, with ordinary citizens alone planting upwards of 60 billion trees. According the analysts, China loses just as many square miles of grasslands and farms to desertification every year, so reforestation has proven to be an uphill battle. The encroaching Gobi has swallowed up entire villages and small cities and continues to cause air pollution problems in Beijing and elsewhere while racking up some $50 billion a year in economic losses. And tens of millions of environmental refugees are looking for new homes in other parts of China and beyond in what makes America’s Dust Bowl of the 1930s look trivial in comparison.
The Chinese government is already talking up the Great Green Wall as key weapon in its arsenal to fight global warming and as proof to the rest of the world that China is taking strong steps to mitigate carbon emissions. The project has taken on additional importance for its potential as a “carbon sink” to store greenhouse gases that would otherwise find their way into the atmosphere and exacerbate global warming. But critics point out that it’s hard to quantify just how much carbon the Green Wall can store, and that plantations of fast-growing non-native trees going in as part of the project don’t store as much carbon as more diverse, naturally occurring native forests. With completion of the Great Green Wall still 35 years out, only time will tell how effective it will be as a solution for some of China’s (and the world’s) most vexing environmental problems■