Desert Oddities – WIF Geography

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Strange Things


in the Desert

Deserts are nature’s perfect hiding places for strange things. The climate can be so hostile to traverse that few people will risk dying after a few hours exposure in the hopes of finding something worthwhile. The lack of even basic of life forms, like bacteria in some deserts, mean that bizarre and mysterious objects can be preserved much longer and more often than normal.

 The extreme environment is also good for creating all sorts of novel flora and fauna. For unsavory types, the desert is perfect for doing nefarious deeds, where they imagine there wouldn’t be prying eyes to worry about. So let’s search the sands, seeking something strange.

10. Chinese Desert Patterns

In 2011, Google Earth users found objects in Gobi Desert areas of China’s Xinjiang and Gansu provinces that made the supposedly paranormal crop circles look downright quaint. While a few large buildings were quickly identified, the more intriguing and seemingly haphazardly designed collections of white lines carved into the ground defied any immediate explanation and came off as especially suspicious for having been made in remote areas. These were not small objects, either.

The Guardian reported that some stretched out for as much as roughly half a mile to 1.15 miles.

The answer turned out to be a little ingenious but relatively benign. They’re used by the Chinese government to orient their spy satellites and calibrate their lenses. Knowing the relative distances and angles for different portions of the pattern allows the satellite operators to know if they’re reading certain distances properly or how well the focus is working. These, it should be noted, are not secret satellites, and it’s not a practice that’s unique to China, either. There’s one in Casa Grande, Arizona that serves the same purpose and which dates back to the 1960s.

9. Ancient Egyptian Burial Boat

For ancient Egyptians, it was fairly common practice to include a vehicle of some kind in the tomb. The famous tomb of King Tut had six chariots in it. Others favored putting boats in theirs, and this was hardly restricted to the elites. Even the peasant class would put cheap but affordable reed boats in their graves with them. But one that was discovered in the Saharan desert after 4,500 years in the sands of the Abusir Necropolis was quite baffling.

This vessel, unearthed in 2016, was sixty feet in length, only about six feet shorter than a warship of the time. It was made of especially high-quality wood, hence it still being relatively intact when it was excavated. What was odd was that it wasn’t buried in the grave of a noble, or a general, or anyone like that. Instead, the person entombed with it was a commoner. How could a peasant have afforded such a boat? How could the family have possibly afforded to pay to have the equivalent of a destroyer buried with him, or even have it transported inland? The answer for people curious about the true nature of the past is frustratingly lost to the sand swirls history.

8. Desert Graveyard for Sea Mammals

Speaking of graveyards, the mystery boat is hardly alone in terms of finding surprising burial sites in the sands. In the Atacama Desert in Chile, there’s a hill called Cerro Ballena (“Whale Hill”) forty meters above sea level that, during roadwork in 2010, was found to contain fossils of forty whales along with a collection of other marine mammals such as dolphins and seals, not to mention some fish related to swordfish. It initially seemed like an amazing case of mass fossilization: How could dozens of animals of various species have all died at once, and in so many cases have been preserved?

The most accepted explanation is that the numerous mammals and fish were deposited over time, and that the hill in question happened to be a place where the bodies were washed up, only to have nature preserved them for six to nine million years. The rather worrying suspect of the deaths that left them to washed up on land was a spontaneous algae infection. True or not, it certainly left an unusual resting place for quite a menagerie.

7. Sudden Tunisian Desert Lake

Desert Oddities

– WIF Geography

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 188

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 188

…The American people have a clear choice between nominees; On one hand you have a sitting Vice-President in Sylvia Freelove and the other, a dogmatic antithetical in Roy Crippen…

 Roy Crippen is trying so hard to prove that he is a different sort of politician.

Today the USA   

Tomorrow the Milky Way 


Astronaut/Straight Talker

***Neither one of the red/white/blue slogan configurations will matter much in the final days of the 2032 Presidential Campaign, with the voters’ blurry-eyed from all the campaign ads nagging them at every turn.***

Way back in 2020, thanks to a 3rd party (Libertarian L-Rand Paul Kentucky) push for fiscal sanity, private funding for national elections was taken out of election process. Gone are the days when one candidate can outspend his/her way into office. As the middle-class dwindled into insignificance and a certain 5% of the population controlled 99% of the wealth, the temptation for someone to finance their way into power is stripped away.

This leaves candidates to their own devices, i.e. merits, accomplishments, policies, and promises. For the most part, to the credit of most office-seekers, the dirty noise of misinformation and mudslinging is no longer an effective tool in influencing voters.

In the case of Pete Sanchez, he was catapulted into office by an ethnic majority, a phenomena that was interrupted briefly by one-term reigns in 2016 and 2020, mainly because neither incumbent administration had the mind to curb spending or maintain a clear vision to justify a second and final term.

Sampan by Dominique Charles FOUQUERAY

Some lessons come hard and if it had not been for the financial & sociological collapse of China, Standard Mandarin would have been spoken in every school, Oriental food would be the national cuisine, and the Yen would supplant the US dollar as the world currency. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for China, the combination of Communism and Capitalism is a lethal mix; planned cities with no people living in them, infused with the truth about life in a free society teamed up to sink their Sampan.

So fast-forward to 2032 where you have relative prosperity and a clear choice between nominees. On one hand you have a sitting Vice-President in Sylvia Freelove and the other, a dogmatic antithetical in Roy Crippen.

The less important position of VP offers an equally, though less scrutinized, divergent choice in the persons of Bud Cauley, the former Congressman from Arizona and Ambassador to the European Union and Charlotte Walker, rifle-toting Governor of Wisconsin.


Election Day

Episode 188

page 224

Contents TRT


Fragile China – A WIF Environmental Update

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10 Ways China Is Ruining

Its Own Environment

In recent years it’s come to light that, despite China’s best efforts to the contrary, they have a massive pollution problem. As China finds themselves trying to quickly and cheaply produce goods that meet the consumer demands of the majority of the world, they’ve also found themselves polluting the atmosphere on an unprecedented scale.

While the world is crying out for China to lower their emissions, many aren’t prepared for the lifestyle changes that would be required if the world’s major manufacturing hub decided to greatly lower its output. In the meantime, the Chinese people suffer the consequences, and as the pollution starts to spread around the globe we may all eventually feel the effects.


10. Poor Air Quality Is Creating A Tremendous Death Toll


The air pollution problem often keeps many people indoors, and forces them to wear masks to keep out toxic fumes even on days where total avoidance of the outside isn’t advised. This problem is giving China a black eye on the national stage. Even after the Beijing Olympics, when the problem became more obvious, the true extent of pollution was swept under the rug. China has never offered journalists free reign to poke around, and has long denied any major problems caused by the air pollution.

However, a joint study involving the Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning and the World Health Organization found that somewhere between 350,000 to 500,000 Chinese people are “prematurely” dying from lung cancer due to pollution. Unfortunately, there are people who try to hand wave these numbers away. China’s government has tried to keep journalists from even talking about the issue, and they’ve done their best to keep the numbers out of international reports whenever possible. While some would suggest that all the smoking in China is the main cause, the study makes it clear that the number of people dying from lung cancer have continued to rise even as the number of smokers has declined.

9. They Are Burning Petcoke As Fuel


The United States likes to feel that they’re a much cleaner country than China, and that they’re doing more to deal with the crisis of pollution and renewable energy. However, the situation is more complicated than it seems. The United States and other countries are happy to buy products made using Chinese industry while claiming to take the high road themselves. The United States has put its foot down on certain fuels such as petroleum coke (petcoke). This fossil fuel is a byproduct of the oil refining process and is much, much dirtier than burning actual coal. While America don’t use the fuel, the US exports it to China so America can make some money off this byproduct instead of just letting the dangerous pollutant “go to waste.”

Every year, the amount of petcoke exported to China grows, because it’s an incredibly cheap fuel and China is dealing with the industrial demands of much of the modern world. While it’s cheap, it is hardly sustainable. With carbon emissions already out of control, using a fossil fuel that’s dirtier than coal is going to make an environmental crisis approach even faster. Of course, the rest of the world is partly to blame for selling the stuff in the first place. Sometimes it’s better to think ofprotecting the world from catastrophe than it is to squeeze every last possible cent of profit out of your waste.

8. Record Algae Growth

A boy man lies on a beach

While algae blooms aren’t necessarily dangerous to humans, they’re usually a bad sign for the local ecosystem. Large blooms of algae have been surfacing every year in the Yellow Sea near the Qingdao Province, and the problem seems to be worsening. These huge piles of algae sitting on top of the water create an enormous mess, and in 2013 the local government was tasked with trying to clean up a bloom that was larger than 11,000 square miles.

These algae blooms greatly affect the local marine life, which often simply can’t survive the conditions they’re forced to deal with. The algae tends to block the sun’s rays, and can also greatly change the chemical balance of the water. To make matters worse, the algae can start to cause problems to humans when it decomposes and sends toxic fumes into the atmosphere. When the Olympics were hosted in China, the government had to spend millions and enlist the aid of 10,000 people to clean the algae up enough to allow the games to continue. The damage from that year alone was estimated to cost local seafood farmers roughly 100 million dollars. Part of the problem may be seaweed farmers, who are scraping waste into the water that later turns into algae blooms when the conditions are right. Of course, many experts feel that if industrial pollution wasn’t so bad those conditions wouldn’t be there.

7. They’re Approaching A Water Crisis


When you think of a country with a serious water crisis, China isn’t what comes to mind. But China is approaching a crisis, even though they would appear to have plenty of water to go around. To begin with, many industrial plants are located near water sources and dump their waste directly into the water, with very little recycling or treatment. Oftentimes sewage isn’t treated properly or at all, and ends up in the same sources of water intended for industry, drinking and bathing. If that wasn’t enough, since the 1960s, 10,000 bodies have been found in water sources.

Apart from pollution, China is also destroying some of their water sources. Due to industry using water without sustainable practices, many of China’s rivers are drying up. Many different ruined rivers and lakes will affect other water sources and make the crisis worse. On top of all that, China has an infrastructure problem when it comes to getting water where it needs to be. Most of China’s people and the agriculture that keeps them fed are located in the north, but the large majority of the country’s natural water is still located in the south. And even if you can get water, you may not want to drink it. Some experts believe that half the drinking water in major cities is unsafe to consume, and groundwater supplies are in a similar state of pollution.

6. They’re Starting To Experience Conditions Similar To A Nuclear Winter


A nuclear winter is a theoretical scenario that would occur in the aftermath of multiple nuclear bomb detonations. Apart from the dangers of the radiation itself, the ash that accumulates in the air would block the sun’s rays for a period that may last years. This would cause the planet to cool, and would greatly impede photosynthesis. It would be almost impossible to grow crops.

Aside from the radiation, this may soon be a reality in parts of China. As the country’s smog problem worsens, and the government becomes less able to sweep it under the rug, more Chinese scientists are delving into the miasma, and it’s not good news. One scientist concluded that the smog in some areas is already bad enough that itcould be severely impeding photosynthesis. She believes that if the problem isn’t dealt with soon, it could spread to much of the country and put agriculture across China at serious risk.

5. Improperly Designed Garbage Incinerators Are Polluting The Atmosphere

A garbage collector looks for recyclable waste at a garbage dump site in Nanchang

China is struggling to contain the insane amounts of waste the country produces. Landfills are quickly overfilling, leaving them with nothing to do but simply destroy the garbage if they can. In many situations, this has led to a strategy of garbage incineration, with the fumes vented straight into the atmosphere. While this probably doesn’t sound like a great idea even in the best of situations, there are some incinerator plants in China that are having a serious environmental impact. Regulations aren’t well designed and there are a plethora of incinerator facilities that aren’t even close to standard, belching nasty smoke into the air with mercury and every other poison you could imagine. The horrible toxic fumes that spew forth have caused protests by everyone near them, and they’re an obvious threat to everyone’s health for miles.

4. It’s Become The Largest Dumping Ground For E-Waste


E-waste is an increasingly vexing problem for the world. When old electronics are tossed out they often aren’t properly recycled because it’s too time consuming, unsafe or expensive. In many cases, a venue that recycles old cell phones and computers may just take all that junk and send it to another country to pick over as they please. This is technically illegal, but there’s little deterrent. Using both the guise of donations and straight up smuggling, China has becoming the leading importer of e-waste to the point that 70% of the world’s e-waste is ending up there.

One town called Guiyu has become a hot zone for the stuff, and many entrepreneurs have risen up around mining old electronic garbage for valuable metals and other useful scrap. Unfortunately, this is terrible for their health and the environment. The process often involves burning plastic or using hydrochloric acid, neither of which is good for the user or the atmosphere. To make matters worse, this pollution has also affected the town’s water supply and rice crops. While the local government is trying to stop the flood of e-waste into the town, they face resistance from some residents because it’s the only way they know how to make a living.

3. Pollutants Are Making The Food Supply Unsafe


It stands to reason that if China’s air and water isn’t doing well, their soil probably isn’t faring much better. The problem with the soil may actually be more serious than any others. While many farmers are worried about the constant pollution levels they’re exposed to, most of the country is worried about the safety of their food supply — a supply they’re increasingly unable to trust.

The soil problem has been one of the most carefully guarded secrets in China. In fact, a few years ago the Chinese government conducted a study of the soil in order to assess environmental concerns. The results have never been released, which led to speculation that they’re worse than anyone could have imagined. To give you some idea, a group of Chinese officials found levels of cadmium beyond what’s recommended as safe in 155 samples of rice. One official commented that eight million acres of Chinese farmland was so poisoned with heavy metal contamination that it should no longer be used to grow crops. The worst part is that it’s almost impossible for Chinese consumers to know whether or not their food is contaminated.

2. Cancer Villages


Since the late 1990s, international activists and groups in China have been working on the problem of cancer villages. A cancer village is a small town of 100 or so residents that’s extremely close to industrial plants. These plants are constantly producing some of the nastiest pollutants on earth. People from the villages describe it as a nightmare, with chemically tainted water that can’t be purified and clouds of toxic ash floating through the air.

The Chinese government doesn’t want to address or acknowledge the issue, but like the smog the problem has become bad enough that no amount of covering up can hide it. Unfortunately, these villages are unlikely to go away anytime soon. As it turns out, the richer citizens of China don’t like pollution when it affects them, so they’ve been pressuring the government to move industrial plants. The government obliges and moves them near poor villages that lacks the political influence to do anything about it.

1. It Affects The Entire World

The San Gabriel Mountains are seen in the background during cloud cover over the Los Angeles skyline

While it’s important for China to help its own country, the problem affects more than just China. The massive amount of pollution is starting to affect the rest of the world, and the results aren’t pretty. Scientists at Texas A&M University ran climate simulations both with and without China’s current air pollution and found troubling results. According to their simulations, cyclones in the Pacific Ocean are being strengthened by the pollution levels, and there’s an increase in ocean storms in general. If that wasn’t bad enough, tracing the pollutants led to the conclusion that some of it’s reaching the western United States, and much of the pollution levels in those states could be blamed on China.

Fragile China

– A WIF Environmental Update