Half Desert, Half Prairie – Our Commitments to Inner Mongolia


The five-day YES Youth Camp has finally ended! This time, 18 members with different backgrounds had joined the journey, communicated with each other, who once was a stranger to them, and gotten to know each other little by little over the course of the camp. The members of the camp consist high school students, university students, and those who are already a part of the society. Nevertheless, neither age gap nor gender difference exists therein; everyone stands equally when we are gathered here in the purpose of protecting the environment.

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Quiet. It was the initial impression that appeared in everyone’s mind when we first arrived the Taminchagan Desert. Although there were sounds coming from the wind, the desert itself is silent.

A layer of red appeared between the blue sky and the golden desert when the sun was setting. We heard a really weak sound came from the bottom of our feet. It was the noise of two scarabs, who were working industriously for their family. We couldn’t bear the thought of breaking the peaceful scenes of the desert; therefore, we decided to leave the desert before the sun was completely set.

It was the first night of the camp, but it was already the eighth year since initially launched of the Million Tree Project. As volunteers who have been with Shanghai Roots & Shoots for many years, we were very happy that we were given a chance to contribute our efforts towards this meaningful project.

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What’s point of learning stuff that would probably never be used in the future? This is one of the questions that were frequently asked by us when we were young. But we never found out what the answer to that question is until older. The more you learn, more knowledge you store in your head, and the better the understanding of the world you would have. Before conducting the investigation on the ecosystem, we had ambiguous understandings of the environment around us. Nevertheless, after hearing the explanations of the environment from our supervisors, who have been living in Inner Mongolia for a long time, we slowly understood the ecosystem in Inner Mongolia, and were able to describe the environment using precise terms.

We were separated into various groups to conduct extensive investigations on the ecosystem, record the observations and data we obtained. Various possibilities of soil development lay therein these precious data. Luckily, based on investigation and experience from the past, the sandy condition, which appears in the Horqin Sand Land, is proven retrievable. If we apply appropriate control measures to the area in addition to proper protections, retrieving sand land from its current condition in the near future is plausible.

On the third day, we got our hands on constructing the trellis grass, which ensures the seedlings to develop properly under windy conditions.  The hard work of a morning brought us great fatigue. Nevertheless, we finally understood the difficulties of governing the desert through our own hands.

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One of the best things of being in Inner Mongolia is that you are able to sense the smell of barbeque that barely appears in big cities. The beef and lamb here are all pure, without any pollution, they kept their originally smell.

 The milk teas, which are sold here, do not have the taste of extra sugar as the ones that are sold in the cities; they are pure combinations of milk and tea. These tiny things truly reflect the lifestyles that herdsmen live in: no pollution or influences from the cities, everything is as pure and original as it was at first.

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Once humans have been living outside of the natural habitat for too long, they will slowly habituate the lives in the cities, and gradually be subdued by civilization.  Eventually, humans will become more and more arrogant, thinking being civilized is much better than living in the nature. However, as soon as we reach the desert, we were instantly struck by the realizations of how tiny we actually are, and every time when we looked up in the sky, all of our worries and trouble would be gone.

A lot of us tried to describe these beautiful views, only to find out that it cannot be accomplished through words. Thankfully, we have a skillful photographer in our crew, who captured these views that words can’t express.

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Even though we have only been here for four days, we have not only seen the sun rise at the grassland, but also experienced the lifestyles in the desert. Environmental problems, for people who are living in the cities, seem so far away. There is no doubt that a lot people have asked that, since us all are just tiny parts of the earth, what damage is it going to be done to earth if we just waste merely a few liters of water, or use a few more disposal utensils?

To people who have asked this question, there is a perfect answer to it.

Professor Zhong-Li Ding said that, “protecting the environment is not for the matter of saving the earth; it is for the matter of saving humans ourselves. There have been plenty of times when the average temperature on earth is ten degree Celsius higher than today’s; the density of carbon dioxide in the air is ten times more than today’s. However, the damages were only done to the living species on earth instead of earth itself. Therefore, protecting the earth is for the matter of saving humans from distinction.”

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Humans’ existence of a few hundred thousand years on earth is trivial compare to the life of earth. Even if we eventually destroy our living habitat, the earth will keep breeding new species that are suitable for that condition.

Inner Mongolia was a beautiful prairie in the past, though it is hard to imagine due to serious desertification. Fortunately, improvements have been occurring quietly. Hopefully, in the near future, humans will come to the realization that protecting the environment is not for the matter of saving the earth but us. At that time, we will be able to proudly announce that we have finally fulfilled our commitments to Inner Mongolia.

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