Barking Up the Right Tree
Apparently spooked by a recent history of devastating floods and blinding sandstorms, China has unveiled a plan to plant trees on almost 200,000 square miles of land in an effort to reverse rampant deforestation. The plan, which Chinese officials call the largest conservation effort ever attempted, will cost an estimated $12 billion over 10 years and restore trees to an area larger than Germany. In the last century, that much land and more has been cleared by the agriculture and timber industries, paving the way for erosion, desertification, and other environmental woes. According to Lei Jiafu, deputy chief of the state forestry administration, China settled on the “unprecedented” reforesting effort after smaller-scale attempts to improve the environment were unsuccessful. The plan will also create protected reserves for pandas, Tibetan antelopes, and rare orchids. Sounds good, but skeptics point to China’s overwhelming rural poverty and question whether state subsides for turning croplands to forests will be sufficient to support families and reverse deforestation trends.