Beijing’s Orange Skies

In the newspaper this morning, I read where a huge sandstorm had caused the skies over Beijing to turn orange.

The sandstorm was the result of massive deforestation in western China. The deforestation dates from the 1950s and 1960s when millions of trees were cut down to enlarge farms and build factories.

Due to this deforestation, deserts now cover one-third of China.

A reforestation effort has been conducted over the past few years but it will take decades for it to improve the situation.

The sandstorm caused flights in and out of Beijing to be canceled and an air quality alert was issued.

The worst sandstorm in the country’s history took place in 2006 when more than 300,000 tons of sand were dumped on the capital city.

The effects of China’s deforestation are far-reaching. Neighboring countries also have issued air quality alerts and even the western United States has been affected.

It’s incredible to think of the impact that something as common as a tree can have.

I remember watching public service announcements as a kid about Arbor Day. Even then, it sounded kind of corny – like a holdover from the hippies!

But when I lived in Burkina Faso, I began to learn for the first time how lucky I was to grow up in one of the last major forests on the eastern coast of the United States and how so many people have to struggle with the effects of deforestation.

So it seems fitting that today – the first day of spring (and the most beautiful day we have had since summer left us six months ago) and the day that the skies over Beijing turned orange – to look up the Arbor Day Foundation and make plans to plant at least one tree when my state celebrates Arbor Day next month.

It’s for my future, my son’s, and for people a world away from us.

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