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Can Large-Scale Environmental Devastation Ever Be Reversed?

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Throughout centuries of farming, animal grazing and deforestation, the earth's natural resources have been exhausted. Deserts are encroaching into previous lush areas and water is becoming alarmingly scarce.

Our soil is depleting 13% faster than it can be replaced, and we've lost 75% of the world's crop varieties in just the last hundred years. Over a billion people in the world have no access to safe drinking water, while 80% of the world's fresh water supply is used for agriculture.

Even from space, the visual scale of the destruction is both disheartening and sobering. Add to this travesty the fact that the world's population is expanding by a billion people every 12 years.

On a photographic assignment of the 640,000-square-kilometer Loess Plateau in North-Central China in 1995, cameraman John Liu witnessed the ravaging effects of man's ignorance and greed. But he was amazed to discover that the mindful, purposeful efforts of local Chinese residents had rehabilitated a stark desert area the size of the Netherlands into a lush, green oasis.

He wondered if similarly devastated landscapes had once been vistas of lush, thriving vegetation that include waterfalls, rainforests and fertile valleys - before several thousand years of exploitation had stripped the land of every natural resource.


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