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Turning negatives into positives

By Erik Nilsson | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-12 08:03

One day, a herder leading her flock across this tableau loaned me her staff affixed with a whip, and let me guide her livestock for a moment, just for giggles.

When I curiously experimented with the twine whip - meters from any animals - she and the creatures both panicked.

She told me to stop by using words, while the animals told me by galloping away. The sheep kicked up roostertails of dust.

We'd come to report on the droughts.

Then, it rained.

It was the second downpour of the year. And it was brief.

Yet, it still seemed ironic.

And the precipitation sucked the heat from the air.

The temperature suddenly plummeted from 35 C to 8 C, and was even lower at night.

Every dark hour that week was brisk, no matter how sweltering the day had been - and typically it was searing.

I didn't pack a jacket since it was mid-May. I didn't imagine I'd need one in the daytime - or need to sleep cocooned in multiple blankets and sometimes still shiver at night.

I often wore my sweater to bed.

But that was part of what made me think: What I saw in Desheng's challenges and solutions made me ponder another, far more remote, swath of China, on the fringes of Qinghai province's Yushu prefecture, which faces similar challenges, but to a more extreme degree.

Qumalai county in Qinghai, where I started a volunteer initiative six years ago, has also grappled with harsh weather - desertification, caused by climate change, according to government authorities, and extreme cold caused by elevations that hover around 4,000 meters.

The region on the planet's "third pole" also happens to be one of the sunniest places on Earth.

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