This first post is going to be a big one! It took a while to get decent Internet access, but now I’ll be posting more regularly. Where to begin… I’ve absorbed so much. It’s been two weeks since I landed in Xi’an, China and the transition has been fairly smooth so far! For those of you who didn’t see my Facebook post last week, there was a little confusion when I landed at the airport. After waiting for a while, I decided to explore Xi’an on my own until I made contact with someone at the university. I decided to take a bus to the center of the city to stay at the Bell Tower Hotel. The hotel got its name because of this amazing bell tower across the street.
This is what I’ve learned about Xi’an so far. The Bell Tower was built over 600 years ago, and lies directly in the center of Xi’an. Today a huge traffic circle surrounds the structure and connects the primary roads that span straight to the four edges of the city. Before applying for this internship Xi’an was an unfamiliar name. Yet, founded over 3100 years ago, as the city of Chang’an, this city has a long history. All I know so far is that it has been the centre of Chinese society on more then one occasion and was the eastern tip of the Silk Road. I look forward to finding out more about the history and sharing it with you.
Today this city is huge. 8 million people and growing every day. The Chang’an District I live in was farmland 5 years ago. Now all you’ll see are high-rise apartment buildings, parks, markets, and shopping malls. All of the universities that have campuses in the old city have created their new satellite campuses in this district. They even seem to be having a “best library” competition; I think Shaanxi Normal University actually won a prize. Here it is:
I put two pictures to show you what the air looks like before and after a big rainfall. The picture on the left shows you just how thick the haze can get. The rate of development is huge and the combination of burning coal and dozens of construction sites really takes its toll. Due to this rapid urban development, and all of the people migrating from rural areas, this metropolis has spilled out of the ancient walls that surround the old city. Agricultural land is being converted in to city blocks, reducing the amount of land that can be used to maintain the dietary needs of the population. One answer to this problem is to increase the productivity of the available agricultural land.
This is the solution that I hope my primary research project will contribute to. Land is divided into very small areas. Sometimes as many as eight households divvying up one acre! In order to provide enough food for a family, and enough to sell for a decent income, the land needs to be as productive as possible. On top of that, there is a need to ensure that agricultural practices are sustainable. This will ensure long-term productivity and reduce their contribution to damaging the environment. There are many agricultural techniques being used, and by going out to interview farmers about their techniques and incomes I might be able to uncover which ones are the most successful. I'm certain that there are already some really great methods being used that are tried and tested for this climate. Ultimately, the appeal of higher productivity and income is a great way to convince people to practice sustainable agriculture. In the end, increased productivity means more food for everyone!