With the Beijing Olympics just a year away, and desert dunes now only 150 miles away from the city, officials have been dreaming big when it comes to battling legendary Chinese sandstorms in the capital and across the country?s arid north. In 2001, the government approved a new phase of an $8 billion antidesertification campaign, stretching from the capital to Inner Mongolia. The 4,500 kilometer shelterbelt ? with 25 million hectares of trees planted and 10 million more hectares planned by 2050 ? has been the world?s largest reforestation campaign.

Mega antidesertification campaigns have worked in the past. The Dust Bowl of the American west in the 1930s prompted the creation of a 100 mile-wide shelterbelt that stretched from Canada to Texas. ?It was very successful and did a lot for controlling erosion, providing wildlife habitat, and protecting farmsteads,? says James Brandle, a professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln....

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