Tag Archives: China

China’s Loess Plateau Reclamation

The Loess Plateau in China’s Northwest is home to more than 50 million people. Centuries of overuse led to one of the highest erosion rates in the world and widespread poverty. Two projects set out to restore the Loess Plateau.

Background Information:

The project area covers 15,600 square km of land in nine tributary watersheds of the Yellow River on the Loess Plateau in Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu Provinces, and the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, China.

The Loess Plateau covers an area of some 640,000 sq. km in the upper and middle parts of the drainage basin of the Yellow River. Before the project, most of the project area consisted of severely degraded and barren land and low productivity slope land. The loess soil has good agricultural properties, but drought is a major constraint in crop production. Slope lands in the Loess Plateau produce extremely high levels of sediment runoff per unit area. Broad flat terraces for crops and narrow terraces for trees and shrubs are essential for profitable use of lands in the project areas. Per capita incomes in the project area are mostly below the poverty line.

The objective of the project is to help achieve sustainable development in the Loess Plateau by increasing agricultural production and incomes, and improving ecological conditions in tributary watersheds of the Yellow River, through: (a) the introduction of more efficient and sustainable uses of land and water resources; and (b) reducing erosion and sediment flow into the Yellow River. The project finances the integrated planning and treatment of small watersheds. The project creates high-yielding, level farmland for production of field crops and orchards and thereby replaces areas devoted to crops on erodible slope lands, and (b) plants the slope lands to a range of trees, shrubs and grasses for the production of fuel, timber and fodder. These measures increase per hectare productivity on the improved farmland, raise overall output and incomes, and have positive ecological impact. Comprehensive and integrated planning of individual watersheds in close consultation with the beneficiaries in the villages is a key aspect of the project.

This paper from February 2012 [PLOS PDF] quantitatively evaluates the effects of Grain to Green Program (GTGP) implementation on ecosystem services in the Loess Plateau region (Figure 1)

Prior to the GTGP implementation, the Loess Plateau was dominated by grasslands and farmlands. Between 2000 and 2008 the land cover patterns of the Loess Plateau changed remarkably. Woodland, grassland and residential land cover increased by 4.9%, 6.6% and 8.5%, respectively. Farmland decreased by 10.8% and desertification increased slightly, by 0.3% (Figure 2)

The increases in grassland and woodland were distributed along a northeast to southwest land strip (Figure 3).

The regional climate condition of the Loess Plateau region has exhibited a warming and drying trend. This climate trend was revealed from the analysis of time series data between 1951 and 2008, obtained from 85 weather stations located in the Loess Plateau region (Figure 4). Precipitation was found to decrease annually by an average of 0.97 mm and temperature was found to increase annually by an average of 0.02°C.

Regional water yield decreased after the implementation of the GTGP. Over half of the study area (northeast to southwest of the Loess Plateau) experienced a decrease in runoff (2–37 mm/year) with an average 10.3 mm/year decrease in runoff across the whole Loess Plateau over the 2002–2008 period (Figure 5)

Soil conservation in the Loess Plateau, represented as a decrease in soil erosion, has improved since 2000 as a result of vegetation restoration (Figure 6).

The spatial variation of carbon sequestration in the Loess Plateau is shown in Figure 7.

The time and rate of the gross production change appeared to occur later and more slowly than the grain productivity change (Figure 8). Actual grain production increased across the whole of the Loess Plateau at a rate of 18% between 2000 and 2008.

Table 1. Rainfall erosivity and soil retention characteristics in the Loess Plateau region from 2000 to 2008.

Table 2. Area of cropland converted to forest (grassland) and the carbon sequestration by vegetation, soil and ecosystems in Loess Plateau between 2000 and 2008.

Hope in a Changing Climate
While serving as executive director of the Environmental Education Media Project Jonathan Halperin managed the creation of Hope in a Changing Climate, the award-winning documentary screened in Copenhagen at COP-15 and broadcast globally by BBC World.

The story of successful large-scale ecosystem restoration that is shown in the film, narrated by EEMP founder John D. Liu, continues to inspire audiences around the world and has been translated into French, Russian, Chinese, and numerous other languages.

Origin and Formation of Loessal Soils

Understanding the conditions of the environment that people of the Loess Plateau inhabit is a necessity, and with this acknowledgement comes the need to establish what loess actually is. Containing more nutrients than sand, it is also much finer. Its silt-like nature is noted as being among the most erosion-prone soils known on the planet (Jiang 18). Loess is also extremely sensitive to the forces of wind and water, bearing the dubious honor of being blown or washed away quicker than any other soil type (Pye 125).

Prior to this century, loess was a compelling mystery for geologists seeking to know its origins. Former theories included that loessal deposits were beds of ancient oceans, and even that they were composed of cosmic Saturn-like rings of dust that may have once encircled the globe but somehow rained down in pockets (Pye 237). Into the 19th Century, however, an apparent agreement was shown between the timing of noticeable waves of loessal sedimentation and the glaciation of the northern hemisphere (Smalley 358).

The Loess Plateau was formed in waves between 2.4 and 1.67 million years ago, helped along by the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau, the movements of several huge glaciers across desert

regions, and strong winds maintained by a high-pressure system in a cold and dry continental interior (Meng and Derbyshire 141). It is the world’s largest deposit of loess, approximately the size of France, designated by the large black area in Figure 2 below (Yoong 95).

Of all the factors contributing to soil erosion in the Loess Plateau Region, including desertification, wind erosion, violent rainstorms, and earthquakes, the most significant overall has been irrational land use (Bojie et al. 732). Slopeland, although much less stable than the level “yuan” tables (See Fig. 4), is continuously cultivated out of sheer need for increasing amounts of agriculture. These plowed slopes account for as much as 70% of soil loss in the region (Luk 23). However, it is not enough to simply declare the Loess Plateau inhabitants irrational. Many factors contribute to their use of the land in such a way.

Lev Semenovich Berg was born in Bendery, in Moldova. He had great success as an ichthyologist and geographer; he also proposed, in 1916, an interesting theory of loess formation. As a biologist he was persecuted by Lysenko and the Soviet state in the time of pseudo-science in the 1930s and 1940s. Despite his being persecuted, the loess theory beca- me, in effect, the official Soviet theory of loess formation. This theory had to be compatible with his ‘landscape’ theory which did not find favour in Marxist-Leninist geography. Berg’s loess theory was very much a geographical theory, as opposed to the geological theory of aeolian deposition, which was accepted outside the Soviet Union. Berg was hugely successful in many fields, but his contributions to loess science tend to be neglected. His ‘soil’ theory of loess formation has been widely disparaged but still has some influence in Russia. The concept of loessification may still be relevant to the later stages of deposit formation; the slow transition from metastable to collapsible may be best described as loessification.

The Lessons of the Loess Plateau, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six.


SOPA! How it could destroy public intellectualism, and the furtherance of an educated, creative, developing society.

UPDATE: The White House has begun to respond to the protesting voices of American Citizens (ironically, united, but not by Citizens United) 

This is a list of sites taking action against SOPA on the 18th of January.

This post will be an updating one, currently I am just trying to collate information, links, and materials, as well as sources relating to the primary actors in this game… the politicians advancing such a dangerous, ignorant, reactionary and anti-modern, anti-liberty, anti-freedom based laws.

Currently, no ideas in this post are my own (for some digging I did on copyright a while back, check here), I will work to compose my own thoughts, but I thought that was completely secondary to linking OTHERS to the information to create a cogent case against such techno-phobic, corporately sponsored ignorance in our nations lawmakers.  I will note now only that SOPA is emphatically not “simply” a law to “stop piracy”… as written, it will break the internet.  I know many will already be aware of the issues presented, but consider that this is not simply a matter of “them foolish kids downloading the new hot Britanny Spears Track”… this law will DETRIMENTALLY impact the free flow of information between scholars, public intellectuals, and people who are hungry for rational, logical debate and information transmission.

If we wanted twitter to be censored, and to have our information fed through a blender that filters out anything negative about our government… we might simply go to China.   It is pathetically ignorant to, on one hand spew spittle flecked invective at “human rights abusing” China, and to sneer about how “Chinese citizens are not free, and do not have free thought or expression”… well, our distinguished “leaders” have decided that, hypocritically, that is what their vision of America entails.


“A growing tension between rights holders and libraries”

Butler mentions three copyright infringement lawsuits against universities and their libraries—the Georgia State e-reserves case, the AIME vs. UCLA video streaming case, and Authors Guild v. HathiTrust. “These lawsuits reflect a growing tension between rights holders and libraries, and some rights holders’ increasingly belligerent enforcement mentality,” Butler wrote. (On September 14, the LCA released a statement [PDF] in support of HathiTrust and its research library partners in the Authors Guild v. HathiTrust case.)

What can you do now?  The EFF offers this toolkit for anti-sopa activists;

  1. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively.  Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
  2. Contact Congress through EFF’s action center.  Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
  3. If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
  4. Write a blog post about the blacklist bills.  Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakersto protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
  5. Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
  6. Do you administer a website? Then put a banner on your site protesting censorship or link to EFF’s action center.
  7. Coordinate a teach-in or debate at your local college or community center. Invite local experts in copyright and free speech to come discuss the issue.
  8. If you’re in high school, talk to your civics and media studies teachers about a class discussion on the implications of this bill. Point them to our free Teaching Copyrightmaterials.
  9. If you’re in college, speak out through like-minded organizations working for digital freedom, such as Students for Free Culture or Electronic Frontier on Campus. If there isn’t a chapter at your school, start one. Then use that platform to coordinate with other students to speak out against this bill.
  10. If you’re in college, set up a meeting with your college newspaper editorial board and explain the bill to them and why they should speak out about it. Work with them to write articles on the topics. Check out these examples from the University of BuffaloUniversity of Massachusetts, and University of Minnesota.  See more examples at the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Chorus of Opposition page.
  11. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Remember, these are often really short. Find out the requirements for your local paper and follow them carefully.
  12. Become a member of EFF. We’re leading the fight to defend civil liberties online, so that future generations will enjoy an Internet free of censorship. By standing together, we can make it happen.


The Senate’s PROTECT IP Act and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are so noxious that even the Business Software Alliance has serious reservations, and SOPA’s main backer had to take to the virtualpages of National Review today to quell a growing revolt among his conservative colleagues about “regulating the Internet.” Whatever you think of the legislation, it unquestionably represents a sea change in the US approach to the Internet, one which explicitly contemplates widespread website blocking and search engine de-listing.

The level of debate on an issue this important has been… suboptimal. (And hearings have been rather lopsided affairs). Just listen to the rhetoric of SOPA author Lamar Smith: “Enforcing the law against criminals is not censorship.” Pithy, sure, but it doesn’t relate to any actual objections put forth by thoughtful critics.

But rightsholders do need some means of enforcing copyrights and trademarks, something tough to do when a site sets up overseas and willfully targets American consumers with fake goods and unauthorized content. Some sites can be leaned on when hosted in friendly countries, but many simply thumb their nose at US law with impunity. If you can’t go after the sites at the source, and you can’t lure their operators to the US (both tactics used with success in other cases), what’s left but blocking site access from within the US?


OPEN: Online Protection & Enforcement of Digital Trade Act

The OPEN Act secures two fundamental principles. First, Americans have a right to benefit from what they’ve created. And second, Americans have a right to an open internet. Our duty is to protect these rights. That’s why congressional Republicans and Democrats came together to write the OPEN Act.


One of the many serious problems with the Stop Online Piracy Act (“SOPA”) (pdf) is how it tacks itself onto existing law to expand liability to people who may be three times removed from any actual copyright infringement. In § 103, SOPA wraps another layer of liability around what are called the “anticircumvention provisions” of the Copyright Act (which are found in section 1201 of the Copyright Act). The goal of the anticircumvention provisions is preventing people from circumventing technology that protects copyrighted works. Importantly, however, some courts have held that § 1201 prohibits circumvention even when the person’s ultimate use of the work does not infringe copyright. So if you circumvent technology to access a work in a way that’s completely legal, you might still be violating § 1201. If SOPA is passed, even more individuals and entities will get caught up in an ever-expanding net of liability, which is especially ridiculous when we’re talking about a provision of the law that may not even require actual copyright infringement.

SOPA’s Ever-Expanding Net of Liability

Earlier this week, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA)—made up of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Association of College & Research Libraries—released an open letter [PDF] to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), “welcoming [the] release” of a discussion draft bill the legislators have sponsored. Called the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, the bill has been touted as a potential alternative to SOPA.

Though SOPA [PDF] is primarily aimed at combating copyright infringement by foreign websites, many observers have taken issue with the enforcement methods described in the bill, which could have far-reaching effects—including in the library world. (Yesterday, 83 Internet engineers and inventors wrote an open letter to Congress saying that SOPA and similar legislation “will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation.”)

On November 8, Brandon Butler, ARL’s director of public policy initiatives, wrote another open letter on behalf of the LCA criticizing two provisions of SOPA’s Section 201. One of them, he wrote, could expand the definition of “willful” copyright infringement to potentially include cases where a person (or organization) believed in good faith that its infringing conduct was lawful; such “innocent” infringement carries much smaller potential for monetary penalties than willful infringement does. (“In cases of willful infringement, the court can increase the statutory damages to $150,000; in cases of innocent infringement, the court can reduce the statutory damages to $200,” Butler wrote.)

Brandon Butler, Director of Public Policy Initiatives, at ARL talks SOPA with CNN’s Brian Todd.

Direct to Video Interview (via ARL Policy)

What’s Wrong With SOPA?