There are two feelings that anyone who has been in the desert are familiar with: the uncomfortable grit of the sand as it gets into your clothes and the unforgivable heat that bears down on you relentlessly. For many, the desert is an experience to be had, a place to visit and recount in more comfortable, air conditioned rooms. For people like Guo Kaiming, it is their home.

Guo Kaiming, a 40-year-old Chinese man, lives on the edge of the Tengger Desert, the fourth largest in China. He and many people who live in similar areas are now combating a danger that has become a huge issue for China, desertification. The main contributor to this spreading of arid land has mainly been caused by overgrazing due to herders, but the increase in droughts that climate change is causing is not helping the problem at all. Local governments work in tandem with residents like Guo to try to slow the spread of the desert using methods like agriculture to prevent the erosion as well as reintroduce nutrients. A New York Times article depicts Mr. Guo standing next to a small line of saplings that he had planted to try to help counteract the spreading Desert. Unfortunately, while there are many who are trying to combat the spread of deserts like the Tengger, the scale of the problem is a little difficult to fathom.

On the United Nations website, it is listed that 12 million hectares (roughly 30 million acres) of arable land are lost yearly due to desertification. For people in first world countries like the United States, this matters very little, but in smaller, impoverished countries, desertification and loss of arable land is a terrifying prospect. In our world, today, human actions have resulted in changes to the Earth visible even from outer space, and although some of our actions seem irreversible, we should follow Guo’s example and change the world in the small ways that we can.