Sunday, February 15, 2009

Drought in China, Why?

A recent article on cited a news story that intrigued me: "China Drought Leaves 4 Million Without Water." As I read through the article I discovered that China has very uneven water distribution due to an arid northern region and a flood ridden southern region. The article portrays cracked earth and wheat that will never make it to harvest. This is the worst drought China has seen in over 50 years.
This opened a new door of ideas to me however, because I've known about the slow desertification process in China for some time. Could this be the cause of weather conditions shifting in China or is it all just a long cycle that will always be instated?
According to one source, China is comprised of 27% useless land, and that 7% of the land in China actually feeds one quarter of the world's population. Massive amounts of capital have been put into "greening campaigns" in an effort to tie down the soil and plant trees. Just 70 km from Beijing the Gobi desert's dunes are moving closer and closer each year. It isn't crazy to think that in just a couple years Beijing itself could be encased in sand.
This could pose a serious threat to global food supplies. China produces and exports much more than I had originally anticipated. Over one third of the world's supply of rice comes from China. China is also the world's leading producer of raw cotton, and leading exporter of other crops like wheat and oilseed. There are so many things in our surroundings and foods that we consume that contain some form of the above mentioned. China recently surpassed Germany as the number 2 trading nation. (For other information on China.) If this desertification process continues at its projected rate, there could be some serious shortages on wheat, cotton, rice, soybeans and whole slew of important crops that agribusiness depends on and other countries depend on for imports. Not to mention the amount of farmers put out of work and out of business, only contributing the the urban rush that China has already been experiencing.
Since this is all environmentally routed, it would be hard to give China aid. Just giving them surpluses of our crops would not solve their problem. I strongly feel that the drought they are experiencing isn't the problem... it is a symptom of China's many problems. As Asian countries like China adopt more western lifestyles the quantity of meat and dairy that they are consuming is steadily increasing. Western lifestyles much like how many people live in America is really not sustainable either. There has got to be a parallel with the way China's society is changing and their increased problem with a decrease in farmland... and the solution to that is not to simply plant more trees.
There needs to be cleaner air acts set in place now, more ethical business practices and a sharp decrease in emissions. If the Chinese government put this as their top priority I'm sure that it would help in their struggle with climate changes in their country, therein solving a very imminent food crisis. I know that a lot of these issues can't be solved in such an obvious manner because of all of the social and environmental complexities of the situation, but there needs to be a call to change.

Other interesting information:
To see how many Earth's it would take to sustain your lifestyle, go here.


  1. A very worrisome drought. Can you say more about the food and agriculture connection?

  2. The drought has been the biggest problem in the northern region which is where much of China's winter and summer wheat, rice, and millet are grown and produced.
    Grain is one of the biggest crops produced and as the land becomes unproductive, farmers not only lose their crops, but the prices of grain in the world market also rises. In China, prices have risen due to the drought and its people are unable to support their families. Not only are they not able to make a profit, but they no longer have money to support themselves. As the drought worsens, the land used to grow these important crops gets destroyed and difficult to regenerate. Another problem that this drought brings in, which Kara had talked a little about, was the problem of the land distribution. Because so little land is used for growing large amounts of food for the world, one disaster can be devastating and wipe out entire fields of crops. China has tried to introduce these major crops into other parts of the country, but the land is not in growing conditions. China has the Himalayas and the Gobi Desert in the north- and southwest and major flooding in the south and then in the west is where most of the population is. China's kind of in a tight spot right not and there doesn't seem to be much we can do to help, but maybe by giving them aid with no strings attached then maybe they can get back onto their feet. Especially since they are now one of the super powers of the world and leading producers in wheat and rice.

  3. heres a link to a website for the above info