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Tree Planting Day & Depressing Bare Ugly Hills

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya, Being an obsessive bike rider I get to see so much of China that will never be seen by most foreign visitors. Add to this the lucky fact that I get to live in a place for a long period of time and when you put these two together this means I simply get to see some of the changes that happen. One change I am quick to notice in all the areas I have been lucky to live in are the changes in the hills that surround the town or city I am living in. Ha Ha! Oops, sorry I lie! There were no trees, branches, sticks, twigs or even grass on the hills that surrounded Baiyin City in Gansu province so that means, no changes! The changes I am talking about are that one month hills in a certain area will be covered in trees and a few months later the hills will be identical in nature to those that can be found that surrounding Baiyin City in Gansu Province. There will be no trees, branches, sticks, twigs or even grass! Everything that was once green has completely gone! What would have been left, now burnt! What is left is such a depressing sight! What was once beautiful is now ugly! But, before we judge, (and we in the west are very quick to judge!) we must remember that probably half the population of China uses wood for almost everything. Most rural Chinese have no gas and many have no electricity. Wood is used for all meals and heating throughout the freezing cold months of the year. Everything we foreigners import from China that has wood somewhere in its making has come from these now ugly bare depressing hills. Thankfully another thing I pass on my biking adventures is fields full of tiny treelings. Sorry, that's my word for baby trees. When I first noticed these fields I had no idea what was actually planted in them. It wasn't until Li Ping (Joyce) and I were riding together that I found out. Being a silly bugger I asked her what kind of vegetable it was. She laughed and told me they were baby trees. Oh treelings! I said. I knew that! Ha Ha! There must be hundreds of thousands of them in some of the larger fields and once I knew what they were I knew that the ugly bare hill I had begun noticing would once again be full of life again in the near future. I then began to see the big picture. China and its people have been here for a long long time, a lot longer than my people have been in Australia. There would have to be some structure and timetable to this process for all the other hills to be covered in trees. I also then began to notice other things attached to cycle of these hills. Living in shabby huts located on the side of the dirt roads that have been made for the movement of the felled trees are some of the families who spend their lives stripping the life from the lush green hills. I would pass by these shabby huts and like the trees they would be there and then they would be gone. I became close to one of the families that lived out past the Temple that I pass on my afternoon Village/Temple Bike ride. For many months I would pass their home and stop to give snacks or small presents to the twin boys who lived there. These families pretty much have nothing. Their house is made of four wooden posts and they then wrap black plastic around them and add a door type thing. They then cover the plastic in straw and leaves. Maybe this acts as insulation? Here they sleep, eat and live. There never will be school for the kids. They too will relocate their plastic home and strip the life from hills. Their homes can always be found next to a small running river as this becomes their bathroom. During winter time they must be freezing and during summer time I can only imagine how hot it must be to live in a house made of black plastic. On top of that, think of the billions of bugs that they must have to live with. During the warmer months there are many evenings I swallow so many bugs that I barely need to eat dinner. So now we come to the reason for all of the above. These ugly bare hills where no trees, branches, sticks, twigs or even grass can be found today will be soon covered in small new growth tomorrow. I guess several decades pass and then it will be time for the loggers to relocate their black plastic homes somewhere nearby. <u>Arbor Day or as it is known here in China, Tree Planting Day.</u> Yes we have it in most countries but here it is treated a little differently. I seriously can not remember once in my entire life ever being asked to plant a tree on Arbor Day nor do I actually ever remember hearing about Arbor Day until I moved to China. It's kind of like Women's Day and Children's Day. These too I sadly don't remember ever hearing about. The Chinese are people who love a good festival. Give them a reason and they will create a festival around it and celebrate it for a thousand years to come. I'm serious. Some of the more ancient and less celebrated festivals have now been given Public Holidays. What used to be a weeks holiday for May Day (May 1st or Labor Day) has now been stripped of all but one public holiday. The rest have been allocated to some of these other festivals. Why? This is how a society keeps its culture and its history. Past Australian governments would have said, 'Hey they are trees, a public holiday for trees, I don't think so! We would then have been stripped of the holiday as planting trees would not benefit the economy or pockets! Strangely in Australia we really don't have a history or really even our own culture. We are of course Australians and we 'do' have a culture but we have only been living together under the one roof for just over two hundred years. Who is an Australian? What is Australian food? Are Australian girls beautiful? What does an Australian look like? These are just some of the, what seem simple questions that the Chinese ask me over and over. They seem simple until you are asked them by a Chinese person who's people have been here for close to five thousand years and who pretty much all look alike until you've been here for several years. Think about it and try to answer the last two questions. Is an Australian girl beautiful? Of course she is but who is an Australian girl. She is pretty much Asian, Greek, Italian, English, Brazilian etc. What does an Australian look like? Pretty much like everyone. It is very hard for a Chinese person to comprehend what you are trying to explain to them after they ask you these questions. Anyhow, enough of that. Back to Tree Planting Day. Here in China Tree Planting Day is taken very seriously. I guess with 1.3 billion people under the same five thousand year old roof it has to be taken seriously. Everyone needs trees to survive. They all need paper, they all need to keep warm and to cook and to satisfy the demands of Foreign Countries who want cheap labour. Below is some information I found on Tree Planting Day. Below the information are some photos of the depressing bare hills I rode past today. You will have to look into the distance in many of the photos to see the tree stripped hills. Some of them are now covered with re-growth and thats why you will miss it at first glance.

Who are the kids? For those who read my blog you will have seen them in several past entries. They come from a small village a few hours into my ride.

When I arrive they all race around gathering each other and until I take about one million photos I am not allowed to leave. Ha Ha, it really is a wonderful time. I teach them their ABC's and numbers. Lately I can't take the photo until they have counted to twenty. Even the young young ones count to ten or make it to H before they get confused and simply move their mouths until the alphabet is over.

What a wonderful life I live! Beers N Noodles toya.....shane ________________________________________________ The soundtrack to this entry was the awesome Dinosaur Jr The album was 'Without a Sound' Without doubt, the feedback kings! ________________________________________________ Arbor Day is on March 12 to commemorate the passing of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary, in 1925. In 1981, the fourth session of the Fifth National People's Congress adopted the "Resolution on the unfolding of a nationwide voluntary tree-planting campaign". This resolution stipulated that every able-bodied citizen between the ages of 11 and 60 should plant three to five trees per year or do the equivalent amount of work in seedling, cultivation, tree tending or other services. Supporting documentation instructs all units to report population statistics to the local afforestation committees as the basis for workload allocation. Moreover, those failing to do their duty are expected to make up planting requirements, provide funds equivalent to the value of labour required or pay heavy fines. Therefore, the tree-planting campaign is actually compulsory, or at least obligatory (that is, an obligation to the community). The "voluntary" in the title referred to the fact that the tree-planters would "volunteer" their labour. This Month, more than 3 million Beijing people will plant trees at nearly 30 places designated by the Beijing Greening Committee (BGC) and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Forestry. According to the BGC, since a city resolution on tree planting was enacted in 1981, more than 3 million people join in the tree planting campaign every year. In the past 24 years, the capital has had 150 million trees planted, more than 133 million of which have survived. <u>And....where did Arbor Day really come from?</u> <u>J. Sterling Morton and his wife moved from Detroit, Michigan to the Nebraska Territory in 1854, where he was the editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. His influence as a journalist led to his involvement in politics, and he became a promoter of the settlement of Nebraska. The lack of trees, however, was an obstacle.</u> <u> </u> <u>The Great Plains had been described as the "Great American Desert." The tallgrass prairie that covered much of Nebraska at that time could provide rich farmland, but without wood for building houses or for fuel to heat homes, few found it convenient to settle there. Even the allotment of free land by the Homestead Act failed to entice sufficient numbers of families to relocate to Nebraska.</u> <u> </u> <u>Morton first proposed Arbor Day as a tree planting holiday in 1872 at a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. On the first Arbor Day, April 10 1874, prizes were offered to counties and to individuals for properly planting the largest number of trees. It was claimed that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day.</u> <u> </u> <u>April 22, Morton's birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance.</u> <u> </u> <u>During the course of the 1870s, several other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day. Schools began to adopt the tradition beginning in 1882. By 1894, Arbor Day was celebrated in each state of the United States.</u> <u> </u> <u>Morton's home in Nebraska City, Arbor Lodge, is a state historical park, which includes an arboretum and extensive landscaped grounds. Adjacent to the public park, Morton's farm, now called Arbor Day Farm, is run by the National Arbor Day Foundation.</u>

Why is the above underlined? Buggered if I know mate. I cut and past it and it was underlined afterwards and I can't be bothered retyping it. Sorry...you'll have to live with it!

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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