Desertification in Beijing

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Chinese climatic history is colored with desertification. Desertification is the transformation of arable or habitable land to desert, by means of a change in climate or destructive land use.1 China is covered by deserts, however this becomes problematic during times of drought and aridity as the deserts expand and threaten local populations. The Gobi desert is the most threatening to Beijing, the capital of China. A study of desertification illustrates Beijing and China ’s weather, climate, and society of both the past and the present. Chinese climatic history of desertification should be taken as both a guide and a warning to scientists and policy makers concerned about current climatic conditions in Beijing. Several documented events in Chinese history hint that increasing aridity and drought associated with desertification presented problems to ancient peoples. In 1500 BC the ancient Chinese Yang-shao and Lung-shan cultures were overwhelmed by horse-riding people, invading from central Asia, a presumable signal of an early stage of increasing aridity and/or colder winters.3 A climate like the present one in China fostered great droughts around 1100 BC. This time marked a retraction of bamboo lines and disappearance of papyrus reeds hinting at a drying trend in climate.4 An analysis of trade and migrations can also be used as an indication that drought and desertification occurred and forced people from their place of origin. From 150 BC until AD 300, the Great Silk Road extended across Asia and acted as a mechanism for trade in luxuries from China.5 The Silk Road served as an avenue of cultural exposure and integration: introducing new languages, religions (Buddhism and Confucism), and commodities between the east and ... ... middle of paper ... ...ngs and fences), chemical methods (bonding agents added to loose shifting sand to form a nonerodible crust), and land management practices.16 180,000 people living near Beijing will be forced to relocate, not because of immediate desertification danger, but to make room to implement these desertification stalling methods.17 Desertification has consistently haunted Chinese climatic history. However, recent evidence suggests that the Chinese might have a little more on their hands than the global climate change experienced by generations before them. While global warming and climate change are a world concern, the Chinese have an invested interest in combating the desert destruction of their capital city. If these methods prove futile and anthropogenic forces accelerate desertification, then Beijing could be the first victim in the battle against global warming.

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