January 26, 2003 3:53 PM   Subscribe

China is drying up and blowing to California. Right now, tonight. Sorry, no 2008 Beijing Olympics, east Asia n'exist plus. Here's satellite pix of some of the 20 Chinese megastorms that have already occurred this baby century from NASA and NOAA and NASA again and a Google search returning zillions of other links, for fellow regressives who wouldn't ordinarily hang out at CommonDreams.org. (initial link from robotwisdom)
posted by jfuller (21 comments total)
Some Sixties/Seventies soothsayers may have been overeager in predicting our imminent doom; but information like this indicates that they only got the date wrong. I may be wormfood before it all goes megabad, but I hope my daughter weathers the Storm OK.
posted by kozad at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2003

I think what Stewart Brand said about technology predictions can be paraphrased about environmental modeling - we tend to overestimate the short-term impacts and underestimate the long-term consequences.

The consequences in this case include a dust bowl event that by destroying farmland and spreading deserts threatens the livelihood, if not the survival, of one out of every four people on the planet.

Welcome to the Greenhouse Century.
posted by AlexSteffen at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2003

Odd, no mention of the construction of the world's largest dam, the Three Gorges Dam, built for the primary purpose of sending water from water-rich southern China to the dry north.
And that's not the only immense Chinese dam.

But please note in these articles, that dams may create as many problems as they solve.
posted by kablam at 5:59 PM on January 26, 2003

well well well,

this is what commies get for abusing human rights
and who needs China anyways ????

A death Chinese is a good Chinese, they are all Communists anyways !

Here in America, I assure you we are safe, there is nothing to worry about, just look at the beautiful California weather today !!!!

Go watch the superbowl or take a drive in the V8 Mustang Convertible

Life is beautiful !
posted by bureaustyle at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2003

> Here in America, I assure you we are safe, there is nothing
> to worry about, just look at the beautiful California weather
> today !!!!

Snarkyness like this is wasted on a lot of us, Chinese or not. I spent most of the summer and all of the fall not being allowed to water plants outdoors because of no rain. Farmers hereabouts raised fields of stuff that looked and crunched like nachos (no sauce).
posted by jfuller at 7:04 PM on January 26, 2003


not funny
posted by azazello at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2003

The dam has little to do with the dust bowl. The water sent north will mainly go to slaking the thirst of the cities, rather than for agricultural use; and at any rate, though any dam will have trade-offs, it may yet be a key to preventing a permanent dust bowl. Also, some context with the other desertification regions, including the very-slow-motion loss of the Great Plains -- which is only delayed, it may be argued, by the use of the Ogallala Aquifer, itself a finite, though vast, resource. Nor can the US remain smug: drought conditions have persisted in the West for several years now, as well as severe conditions in other regions. Still, the Chinese have launched mitigation efforts, but these may take as many years to reverse loss as it has to damage the groundsoil.
posted by dhartung at 7:19 PM on January 26, 2003

Maybe we could reverse global warming if we could paint a few Midwestern states white. That way they'd increase the Earth's albedo slightly and cause more radiation to be reflected back into space.
posted by alumshubby at 7:46 PM on January 26, 2003

jfuller - sorry for the off topic question - why is the Title tag of this page "n0pr0n0uns.h3r3"? A reference to the way Chinese stereotypes always speak in old movies?
posted by jonson at 8:15 PM on January 26, 2003

Every spring in recent times, Korea is covered in clouds of choking red dust for weeks on end, lifted from China and sent out across the Pacific. It is literally so thick some days that I cannot see across the highway outside my apartment building - maybe 50m.

I mentioned it here last spring, and will probably complain about it again this year.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:21 PM on January 26, 2003

(for 'red' read 'yellow' : coffee good)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:40 PM on January 26, 2003

Here I was going to blather on and on about the yellow sand storms tormenting Korea from the time I was a child, forcing us to wear masks and killing the old and feeble only to find stavros already commenting on the Korea angle. *sigh*
posted by Baesen at 10:29 PM on January 26, 2003

Blather away, Baesen! Elaboration is always good - I've only seen this phenomenon since about '96 or so. Has it been getting worse in recent times?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:02 PM on January 26, 2003

I'd hate to say it in this crowd, but a vegetarian diet would go a long way towards solving their problems.

(1) Less grazing, causing less devastation to the growth holding down the topsoil.

(2) Less grain going to feed the animals, meaning more grain going to people, meaning less need for grain imports. I'm sure you've heard it takes 8 to 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef.

(3) Cattle require tremendous amounts of water. It has been calculated that the amount of water it takes to raise a steer to market weight could float a destroyer. Even if the calculations are off by a factor of 4, that is still a hell of a lot of water.

dhartung, you've made some good points - it's just a matter of time before the breadbasket of the United States faces the same problems...and we feed much of the world with our corn, soybeans, and wheat. The Ogallala Aquifer will soon be dry. Is the goverment doing anything about it? Nope.
posted by fishbrando at 1:15 AM on January 27, 2003

So the Americans are complaining about air pollution caused by the Chinese? Oh, the irony.
posted by Bletch at 1:41 AM on January 27, 2003

Wow, everyone seemed to ignore Bureaustyle as just a troll, but I think he has a very valid point made with excellent satire.
Let's face it, when I feel overwhelmed and/or helpless, where do I retreat? To the computer, television and the comfort of my own luxury car and shopping mall.
You can only read so much about the Chinese (or US for that matter) destroying the environment before you feel despondent and helpless and then just turn on the TV and tune out.
posted by PigAlien at 8:22 AM on January 27, 2003

As a matter of fact, I'm doing it right now...
posted by PigAlien at 8:25 AM on January 27, 2003

> why is the Title tag of this page "n0pr0n0uns.h3r3"? A
> reference to the way Chinese stereotypes always speak in
> old movies?

Oh dear, somebody noticed the title. No, it's just a random string that popped into my head when I had to fill in a certain newish-to-mefi field before I could submit the post.

> So the Americans are complaining about air pollution caused
> by the Chinese?

You heard somebody here complaining? Who? Put another layer on your tinfoil hat, you're hearing things.
posted by jfuller at 8:38 AM on January 27, 2003

AlexSteffan...I dont see any reference in the article to climate change. In fact the specific cause quote was...The institute blames "over-cultivation, overgrazing, over-cutting and over-pumping" for the escalating catastrophe. Pretty much exactly the same cycle that produced the dust bowl in this country...and I don't recall anyone blaming that on greenhouse gases. Maybe climate change is exacerbating the problem...some discussion or evidence along those lines would add to the story. Just setting up the greenhouse climate change soapbox everytime the weather does something unpredictable is not helpful.
posted by cyclopz at 9:30 AM on January 27, 2003

So the Americans are complaining about air pollution caused by the Chinese?

No, both the author and original publisher of the article are from your neck of the woods : ( .
posted by shoos at 10:17 AM on January 27, 2003

Wow, an invite to talk! Cool! :-)

First thing people need to realize is that the sand storms are a yearly event, one of the things about China we Koreans find annoying. It isn't like we produce enough pollution on our own, now we get your sand. :-P

When I was a kid, it wasn't near as bad as it is now. Yes, some years were worse than others, but what came this last year was horrific. As a kid, we would wear our masks and play like it was fog and we were soldiers repelling the hoard from North Korea. Soon, it would be gone and things would go back to normal. A little off topic here but to enlighten folks a little more about Korea, when I was a kid in the late sixties and early seventies, we were heavily indoctrinated into the evils of North Korea. We didn't even think they looked like us, but were more like shrunken moleish caricatures of a real Korean. They were the stuff of nightmares reinforced by our education, weekly air raid drills and ever present military both US and Korean. On another aside, growing up, I never met a rude US GI. Of course, I was never in the areas where they recreate and only met them when they were on duty or when they were doing some humanitarian service. They were our main source for candy other than our local molasses type candy (yut). It was only when I was serving in the military myself that I found they could be just as rude and prejudiced as others although, most were very decent individuals. Gah, this is making me homesick! Will one of you in Korea go out to a street vendor and eat a Hoduk (pancake filled with honey, cinnamon and nuts) and a gun-gogoma (roasted sweet potato) for me please!!!

Enough, back to the actual topic.

What astonishes me is that, as a kid, even though we didn't have near the number of cars that there are now, we used to use yontons (pressed coal) for nearly every kind of heat and to warm our water. If you went out in a white shirt, it always came back black from soot. Now, most burn propane or oil with much less or at least seemingly less, air pollution. Yet, when the sands come now, it is astonishing. I missed the sands these past couple of years but talking with family, none of them could ever remember it being this bad. Before, it was an inconvenience, now it is a health hazard.

Anyway, environmentalism is gaining strength in Korea. It started really in the early 90s and has continued to grow. It would be nice if the US base in Yongsan ever moved to turn the area into a huge park and nature preserve. Seoul has enough steel and especially cement. A massive green area is just what it needs!

With that, I'm off to China for some time to help more friends, 3 weeks or so. I hope to make it to my home for even a week if I can, I've been gone too long. If any here that are in Korea would like to, it would be fun to have a metafilter gathering in Seoul. I'm not positive I'll make it, but email me. If I do make it, the debauchery will be my treat!

Sorry for the partial derail.
posted by Baesen at 11:10 AM on January 27, 2003

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