Beijing Blanketed by Yellow Sand

The first dust storm to hit Beijing this year blanketed a vast area from Gansu province to the eastern seaboard, spanning nearly 1,000 miles. In some parts of Gansu, visibility was down to zero. The little bit of rain that fell on the Chinese capital, an unusual phenomenon in itself, helped somewhat. The dust was so thick that cars were covered with small dollops of mud. A doorman in Chaoyang, the embassy district of Beijing, said it was much worse than last year.
Everyone got a mouthful of dust from as far away as the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. The Chinese government needs to manufacture several billion double facemasks – the type that has two rubber bands like painters use, instead of those with only one. When I was putting fiberglass insulation in my attic, I found that the double mask works much better than the single one. A mask may not last long and that is why several billion should be manufactured.
With visibility down to less than 100 yards, it is ridiculous to let 130 million Chinese citizens run around gagging on dust because they don’t have the proper gear. Hosing down dirt heaps is better than nothing, but long term measures are needed. Feeding 1.3 billion people is mind-boggling indeed. However, China is going to have to put the brakes on deforestation. It is said the years of extreme drought across the north, combined with deforestation, have added to the dust storms coming out of the GobiDesert to make them worse in the last 20 years.
The six billion people inhabiting this planet are going to have to stop chopping down trees – and not just the tropical rain forest. If they don’t, future generations will pay the price for our ignorance and greed. As the ancient proverb says: “Treat the earth well, it was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by our children.”
Dust storms have been occurring for thousands of years. The solution is a limited one, but it is quite simple. China must protect and restore vegetation in areas where the sandstorms occur. If China cares enough about its 1.3 billion citizens to find ways to feed them, surely it can manufacture several billion dust-masks to minimize the damage to their lungs in the spring season.

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