Urban sprawl works differently in China

October 27, 2015

Much of our flight to China we fond the ground, or ocean, obscured by clouds. About an hour out of Beijing, we caught glimpses of China’s countryside.

It’s different there.

If you’ve flown much over the U.S., you’re familiar with agricultural regions having identifiable features such as the large circles created by irrigation systems, or the grid-pattern fields laid out across much of the American Midwest. Those fields are punctuated, especially at night, by farmhouses, smaller crossroads featuring a few more buildings, small towns, and increasing urbanization along the highways going into bigger cities.

In China, north of Beijing, human habitations are much more dense than small U.S. farm towns, and the fields themselves appear almost wholly absent of human habitation.

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Semi-rural area north of Beijing, from 30,000 feet or so. Note new, high-rise apartment buildings in the small town. Photo by Ed Darrell

Here’s a photo I took from our airplane window, looking to the west, over China at least 100 miles north of Beijing. ChinaCom’s system doesn’t identify locations to my iPhone as Verizon’s system does in the U.S.; I have not yet identified the river, though I think it may be the north-flowing Songhua-Amur Rivers complex.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

Agricultural fields are neatly laid out. Notice there is no room left for wild lands, where wildlife might find a home.

I was struck by the lack of uncultivated, unplowed or undeveloped land. Fields abut each other tightly, without even hedgerows between them. We noticed a marked lack of wildlife on other parts of our trip; without even space for weeds to grow between the fields, wildlife habitat is reduced essentially to nil. Does that harm or benefit agricultural production, and other production?

Not a perfect comparison, but here is a nearly-randomly-selected USGS aerial photo of farmland in the U.S., near Jerseyville, Illinois (from much lower airplane elevation):

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

USGS photo of land near Jerseyville, Illinois, near the Illinois River. Hills are unplowed now (they may have been farmed in the past), and waterways have banks of brush and trees for some distance, partly to control erosion. Notice wild tree and shrub growth between some fields.

This photos are not an exact comparison, but you can get the idea that worries me.

China’s tightly-controlled development policies over the past five decades, coupled with a thousand years or so of continued, developed and intentional habitation on these lands, leaves little room for something that is not planned.

Little room for nature. Someone would argue China’s land use is required in order to feed a massive population. Is that so?

On the trip I ran into a fellow working for a company trying to figure out ways to bioremediate polluted rivers in China, since the government came to realize polluted water harms human health and agricultural and riparian production downstream. One way would be to establish buffer lands along the banks of rivers. Can China change policies to allow that to happen, in time?

Pretty from an airplane window. Reflective of wise land use policies? There’s a rich discussion.

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Look closely, you can (almost) see Teddy Roosevelt on his birthday

October 27, 2015

Theodore Roosevelt was born in Manhattan on October 27, 1858.

Among many other things in his life, he was for a time a cowboy in the Dakota Territory, in the area of North Dakota where today resides the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Look closely at the picture.  You can almost see Teddy.  He was a powerful, guiding force behind the movement to protect precious, historic, scientifically valuable and beautiful lands, by the federal government.

Happy birthday, Theodore Roosevelt! Let's celebrate with a great shot of @TRooseveltNPS #NorthDakota

Happy birthday, Theodore Roosevelt! Let’s celebrate with a great shot of @TRooseveltNPS #NorthDakota

Happy Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday, America.

More:

A short, mostly accurate history of Teddy Roosevelt, from some guy named Jeremiah:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Honor the Navy October 27, fly the flag

October 27, 2015

Tugboats and U.S. Navy warships pictured in the Hudson River with the New York City skyline in the background for the Navy Day celebrations on 27 October 1945. Visible in the foreground are the anchored warships USS Augusta (CA-31), USS Midway (CVB-41), USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Missouri (BB-63), USS New York (BB-34), USS Helena (CA-75), and USS Macon (CA-132)

Ships anchored on the Hudson River for Navy Day 1945, perhaps the largest ever celebration. U.S. Navy photo via Wikipedia: “U.S. Navy – U.S. Navy National Museum of Naval Aviation photo No. 2001.256.009 [1] Tugboats and U.S. Navy warships pictured in the Hudson River with the New York City skyline in the background for the Navy Day celebrations on 27 October 1945. Visible in the foreground are the anchored warships USS Augusta (CA-31), USS Midway (CVB-41), USS Enterprise (CV-6), USS Missouri (BB-63), USS New York (BB-34), USS Helena (CA-75), and USS Macon (CA-132)”

October 27 is Navy Day, one of the score of dates listed in the U.S. Flag Code for flying the flag.

Fly the flag to honor the U.S. Navy Today.  Use #NavyDay as a hashtag on social media posts honoring the Navy.  Hey, take an Admiral to lunch. Take any Seaman to dinner.

Navy Day history has a few interesting turns. Why do we even celebrate it? See Wikipedia’s straightforward explanation:

In the United States, the Navy League of the United States organized the first Navy Day in 1922, holding it on October 27 because it was the birthday of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a naval enthusiast. Although meeting with mixed reviews the first year, in 1923 over 50 major cities participated, and the United States Navy sent a number of its ships to various port cities for the occasion. The 1945 Navy Day was an especially large celebration, with President Harry S. Truman reviewing the fleet in New York Harbor.

In 1949, Louis A. Johnson, secretary of the newly created Department of Defense, directed that the U.S. Navy’s participation occur on Armed Forces Day in May, although as a civilian organization the Navy League was not affected by this directive, and continued to organize Navy Day celebrations as before. In the 1970s, the “birthday” of the Continental Navy was found to be October 13, 1775, and so CNO Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt worked with the Navy League to define October 13 as the new date of Navy Day. However, Navy Day in the United States is still largely recognized as October 27.

A few other accounts say Navy Day was supposed to fade away with the establishment of Armed Forces Day. The Department of Defense history said Navy Day was last officially celebrated in 1949. Whoever put together the text in U.S. law for the U.S. Flag Code included Navy Day on October 27, and it’s stuck. With recent Congresses, there has been no hope of any change.

Break out your flag, hoist it up!

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Navy Day Poster from the 1940s, perhaps

Navy Day Poster from the 1940s, perhaps


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