尘烟四起、遮天蔽日、一年一度，可怕的沙尘暴几乎成了大自然给我们的“Irresistible Gift”。沙尘暴的破坏作用毋庸置疑，所到之处，大气污染、植被破坏、交通受阻……面对沙尘暴的危害，我们真的无可奈何？还是应该化气愤为力量，一致向这项“Mission Impossible”宣战？
A massive sandstorm has enveloped most of northern China, covering the capital Beijing in a shroud of dense dust and reducing visibility to less than 50 meters in some areas.<注1> The storm is the strongest and most intense this spring, and hit China's north on March with fierce winds.
Sandstorms are frequent in spring, triggered<注2> by sudden seasonal temperature changes. It covers the entire city with layers of sand, and air transportation has been affected in the storm-hit regions, which spread from the west to east of northern China including Gansu and Ningxia provinces as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Therefore, many people wonder how much worse the weather will become when the spring sandstorms sweep into the mainland one after another.<注3>
In fact sandstorm has posed a serious threat to the air quality and environment. Sandstorms like these, which occurred in ancient times, are widely known among the herdsmen in Inner Mongolia as "Huang-mao-feng," meaning, "wind that carries yellow sand." In recent years, these sandstorms have occurred more frequently, at shorter intervals, and with greater intensity.<注4> A sandstorm on December 31st, 2000 was the first one to hit China in decades. Since then, there has been one every month. We cannot help but ask: is this a phenomenon purely powered by Mother Nature, an occurrence over which we have no control?<注5> The fact is that sandstorms are caused largely by human actions—mainly excessive herding and exploitation of the grasslands.<注6> Under normal conditions, Inner Mongolia provides grazing<注7> for up to some forty million sheep; yet, as many as seventy million sheep have been feeding on that area recently. Because of the increasing price of goats' wool, herdsmen in Inner Mongolia have been hustling<注8> to raise goats—a ruminant with a twenty-times greater potential than sheep to destroy the grasslands.<注9> In these times, desertification<注10> is a primary environmental concern. Unrestricted farming is believed to be the main cause of desertification. Serious destruction of vegetation, dating back from the Cultural Revolution in the 60's and 70's to as recently as two years ago, has prompted the ten-thousand-people-plant-trees activity, with an aim of reducing the incidence of sandstorms. However, such measures touch only the tip, but do not address the basis of the problem.<注11> No one ever bothers to care for the trees after planting them and so the survival rate of the trees is staggering<注12> low. This simply is not a viable method of resolving the problem.
With the global climate constantly changing, sandstorms are expected to occur more frequently, and humanity will be forced to confront the delayed effects ofshavingsrecklessly exploited the environment. It is only recently that some of us, who have been pursuing economic goals, have begun noticing the environmental backlash.<注13> Perhaps man, who is finally eating his own bitter fruits, will understand that economic development does not have to be at the expense of the environment. Instead, environmental preservation and economic development should go hand in hand. Take herding for example: enclosed<注14> herding is better than open herding for preserving vegetation, therefore, there are choices that could be made in this respect, with consideration for the preservation of the ecosystem.
In the future, one of the most noticeable results of globalization will perhaps be environmental destruction. Desertification is not just happening in China, and the problem of sandstorms does not only occupy the minds of Chinese. The entire world is now being compelled to face the repercussions<注15> of over-use of the earth's natural resources, including land exploitation in the pursuit of economic prosperity. We are gradually discovering how closely linked is destruction of the environment in one region, to environmental concerns in other areas around the world.
As to China, it needs to place more attention on environmental protection as a growing population and rapid urbanization threaten to wreak havoc on an already perilous ecological balance,<注16> Premier Zhu Rongji warned last year.
Since 2001, China has launched a massive 700 billion-yuan ( billion) 5-year environmental protection plan to combat a worsening pollution problem. The plan details<注17> goals for pollution control that is wreaking havoc on cities and rural areas throughout the East Asian nation. It will focus on reducing air and water pollution, and cleaning up heavily polluted rivers, lakes and seas. It also focuses on greener construction and infrastructure projects.<注18>
"Never has the Chinese government put the environment issue in such an important position. It is vital to stability and prosperity of our country and people," Xie Zhenhua, director of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), said. By 2005 China hopes to have reduced the total amount of pollutants in the air, water and soil by 10 percent of 2000 levels. International environmental protection bodies have welcomed the plan and said that it showed that China was beginning to face up to its ecological problem. Undoubtedly, both China and the world are looking forward to the clean sky and clear air.