Restoring Horqin (2011)

 

The Horqin Pasture was once a massive grassland teeming with life, but it has made a dramatic shift to become a barren desert, all within 30 years. Beyond its physical transformation are the ecological and sociological consequences that echo all throughout the region. Horqin demonstrates our vital connection to nature, and what happens if we neglect that responsibility. In Horqin, winds that were once barricaded and controlled by trees, now turn into powerful sandstorms which disrupt daily life not just within China, but neighboring countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan as well.

Situated in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of Tongliao, one can chart the fall of Horqin by linking it to the growth of population. The arrival of more people meant more livestock, and overgrazing became one of the major causes of desertification. By the time people stopped ignoring the gradual transformation of the landscape, it was too late.

Thankfully, there have been many reforestation efforts in recent years. International and local volunteers have formed a community that aims to restore Horqin back to its former glory. After planting their 1 millionth tree, Timberland assigned me to document how life has changed around Inner Mongolia.

Horqin is a reflection for what’s happening around the world. There’s still a lot to be done before, but the work in Hoqrin proves a lot of things. Agriculture has returned, and the education of local communities ensures a sustainable road map.

Starting from zero to a million trees, and then a few million more in the years to come, Horqin becomes a platform for achieving the impossible. It goes way beyond planting trees, it’s a reminder of our larger responsibility. We know the great man-made catastrophes of our time, global warming as one of the most urgent problems that needs to be addressed. And with all the disasters, it almost seems futile to turn things around. But everyday is an opportunity to reconcile with nature, we only need to make a conscious choice in our daily lives.

Even in our vocation, we do not need to be activists. We can be accountants, teachers, waiters, and still do our part. We can choose to recycle the can of drink we just finished, We can use more sustainable materials in our homes. And if we had nothing except our voice, we can still remind others about their responsibility. Nothing is too small or insignificant, everything counts.