Northern China, Beijing hit by first severe sandstorm of 2004
The yearly dust storms that have plagued China have returned. Years of tree clearing and overgrazing along China's northern plains--driven by the rising demand for beef by China's growing middle class--have led to desertification throughout the region resulting in the largest dustbowl in history, dwarfing Oklahoma's dustbowl of the 1930s
In Beijing, citizens are forced to wear face masks to ward off serious pollution. Airline take-offs and landings, as well as traffic on expressways, have been affected during the strongest sandstorms.
In previous years, the sandstorms blowing across China have forced people as far away as South Korea and Japan to wear masks against the sand.
These immense dust storms are further proof that human population has passed the earth's carrying capacity, and that the consequences we face are potentially severe. In fact, the damage being done by the overuse of natural resources will only lower further the carrying capacity for humans, ensuring a difficult period of decline in human population and economic activity.
A green future will eventually emerge from this crisis. There is a serious need to plan for that future to minimize the pain of the transition as much as possible.