Sand dunes are already within 60 miles of Beijing and are moving forward as quickly as 15 miles a year, threatening the city with major sandstorms and much worse in upcoming years. Last year, sandstorms hospitalized many residents with respiratory problems and cost the city millions of dollars in damages. More than a quarter of China is desert, and official estimates say about 1,000 more square miles turn into desert every year, a big problem in a country that is trying to feed a quarter of the world’s population with only 7 percent of the world’s arable land. At the same time, intensive farming practices, as well as deforestation, have been a big factor in increasing the rate of desertification.