This Chinese desert highway, maintained by hundreds of workers who live totally isolated lives for years at a time, isn’t just an incredible public-works project. It also seems like a uniquely Chinese solution to the problem. Drifting sand? I know, we’ll irrigate the desert along the edges of the highway, and post people to live at the roadside every few kilometers to maintain the irrigation system! For years at a time! Labor is cheap, the desert isn’t worth studying, nobody has to do an environmental impact survey, and nobody has any say in the matter, so why the hell not?
I’m probably generalizing, but I guess like everyone else in the West I’ve been thinking about China a lot recently. The Olympics, of course, are the focal point, but it’s everywhere. I’m halfway through a galley of The Last Days Of Old Beijing, by Michael Meyer, which I got from Bookdwarf, and it goes nicely with Peter Hessler’s book “Oracle Bones” and Fuschia Dunlop’s book on Sichuan cooking and Chinese society.