Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Each Drop Is Life

The weather really surprised me. I had been accustomed to the more damp, drizzle and mist that is characteristic of my ancestral home, Toishan in the South. But Xian was dry and dusty. Posters everywhere encouraged people to conserve water, proclaiming 'each drop means life'.

Instead of mist, one finds a slight haze. The sky here is cloudless, but not really blue - it's a kind of icky gray/blue I haven't seen before. Not even my trusty Polarizing filters were doing anything here. So it was really ugly for shooting. That's partly due to pollution, no doubt, but mainly due to the dusty yellow loess soil from northwest China being blown east by howling winds from Mongolia. The soil up there is yellow and powder like, and winter winds lift it from the ground and carry it all the way to Xian and Beijing.

The scale and intensity of soil erosion has apparently increased massively in this century. Recent rapid economic progress has brought things to a crisis point. Drought, over farming and de-forestation, combined with ever increasing demands for water from industry and the cities, are pushing northeast China toward the abyss. There’re speculations that the whole region, from Xian to Beijing, may soon become a desert if it isn’t already.

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