I had never really wondered what Mars would look like if it had heavy industry. When I set foot in western China’s Gansu Province in 2005, I knew.
The terrain outside Lanzhou, Gansu’s capital and one of the most polluted cities in China, seems other-worldly. Bizarre stone shapes line the road as far as the eye can see. And, as it turns out, you can’t cast your gaze very far through the brown haze that shrouds the city.
Pregnant women ride their bikes around Lanzhou wearing surgical masks so as not to inhale the noxious air, but so do many men. It’s a frightening sight, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t feel a little guilty that I would be able to go home to clean air while locals seemed doomed to a life of sooty snot and coughs.
Now, though, I feel more optimistic about Gansu’s future. . . the province will soon be home to China’s first 10 gigawatt wind farm.
China’s Hinterlands are Ignored No More
People in Shanghai or Beijing will give you a funny look if you talk about places like Gansu. . . Those places normally only draw attention when something bad happens, like last year’s terrible earthquakes or this summer’s riots in Gansu’s neighboring Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Here you see Gansu highlighted in red:
via China Wind Energy.