Today I went for a walk before sundown. I left campus and walked through the adjacent neighborhood to the reservoir. Large areas were covered with drying corn. This was the usual path, until I decided to try and go all the way around the water. This walk is typically the same: students, fishermen and other locals are walking around and preparing to return home. Instead of turning around, I walked to the left. There were more houses here, and closer together. The path narrowed, but still wound through the homes. As I continued walking the path diverged and became smaller, more rocky. Eventually this led to an opening where the path ended. The houses were behind me, but now I was standing in front of small plots of farmland. Farmers were using hoes to turn the soil. It struck me, the closeness of the city and the college to this patch of farmland.
Before we arrived at our sites we learned that China is home to roughly 10% of the total arable land in the world, though it supports 20% of the world's population. Knowing is very different from understanding in this regard. There are several reasons for the efficiency, but I only wanted to point out that all soil is used to grow things. In fact, the dirt collected in one's shoes from a walk around the neighborhood is enough to grow a single stalk of corn. Between restaurants the green tops of carrots spring from the ground. Never does good land go to waste. Currently, this land is being lost slowly each year due to flooding.
I find it a shocking idea that we have personal lawns in America. Any grass grown here is used to feed the water buffaloes or for playing soccer (or both! I have the pictures somewhere...).