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Moving to China

Vox Populi

Category: Vox Populi

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I was out on a long, slow run late one afternoon, passing cornfield after beautiful cornfield.  It brought me back to my youth, with images of enterprising farmers sitting next to piles of corn they were selling along the back roads of New Hampshire dancing in my brain.  My mother would stop and fill a bag with a dozen ears of the sweet yellow corn and, once we got home, it would be my job to peel off the husks.  This had it been done while sitting outside on the back stairs of our house, as it created quite a wonderful mess.

A few days later after my sunset run, I was reading a book about the history of Northeast China, including more recent developments.  I discovered that all of the corn that I have enjoyed running past, marveling at and even eating, was there in large part due to events that transpired about a decade ago.  While corn has always existed here, wheat used to be grown all over Northeast China in much greater quantity.  What was the reason that corn suddenly replaced the vast majority of the wheat about ten years ago?

In the lead-up to the 2008 summer Olympics, Chinese officials spent billions creating manmade bodies of water all over Beijing using water from the north.  They also worried about being able to supply the millions of Olympic visitors, so they diverted even more water into a vast network of newly-built reservoirs.

Suddenly the water tables dropped all over the region, in areas that were already reeling from a severe drought that they had been experiencing.  Since corn uses much less water to grow, it only made sense that people would start growing it instead of wheat.  

As nice as corn is, once the part of the plant we eat is harvested, corn leaves much more waste material than wheat ever would.  To get rid of all the corn stalks, farmers all over China burn them, significantly attributing to the pollution that plagues parts of China, especially in and around Beijing.

Who would have thought that water being rechanneled for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which lasted only 16 days,  would leave such a lasting legacy a decade later, changing both the agriculture and environment of China forever.


Chad Garland hails from Manchester, NH, a city in the Northeast of the USA, just north of Boston.  He is a high school Principal in Jingyue, a suburb of Changchun.  He last lived in Cairo, Egypt, and has traveled to many different places throughout his life.  He enjoys writing, reading, good food and running in marathons.  He is currently working on two books about his experiences in his free time.


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