Desertification is a growing environmental problem, particularly in Asia where rapid population growth and land overuse are taking their toll in agriculturally-dependent communities. To help combat desertification, Timberland sends a group of volunteers each year to plant trees in the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia – an ever-expanding barren region that generates massive migrating dust clouds which negatively impact air quality in China, Japan and other Asian countries. To date, Timberland has planted approximately 700,000 trees in the Horqin Desert – major progress toward our commitment to plant one million trees by 2010.
Timberland’s marketing manager for Singapore, Cheryl Kow, was among the Horqin volunteers during the annual tree-planting trip in September and agreed to share her thoughts and experiences with us here on Earthkeepers. Below is the first entry in Cheryl’s Horqin Chronicles:
Two colleagues and I touch down at the Shenyang Airport at around 11am via Beijing and meet the other Horqin volunteers from Taiwan. Together we pile into a small van which will take us through Shenyang into Tong Liao province in Inner Mongolia, where the tree planting activities will take place.
It’s a 4-hour ride into the sprawling metropolis of Shenyang in Northwestern China. I am surprised by its modernity. Extensive, multi-storied shopping complexes peer out at us as the van navigates new and sophisticated highways. The familiar red and blue Carrefour insignia whizzes past us.
The urban skyline falls behind the horizon, giving way to a deserted and rustic city as our van pulls up a dusty road to the hotel where we will set base for the next three days. After a quick check-in, we’re on our own until dinner, when the Japan team will arrive.
A colleague and I take a walk around the dusty town, wandering past dilapidated buildings and a couple of new construction sites. A recently-built amusement park helps bring some tourists, which explains the surge of newer hotel establishments, but we still wonder about the lack of people walking the streets.
Our entire group meets for dinner at the hotel, chatting among ourselves about the next two days. We are all anxious and excited to get to work in the Horqin Desert.