Air Date: Week of December 11, 1998
This week, facts about... Fifty years ago, then Soviet ruler Josef Stalin declared an extensive tree-planting campaign.
CURWOOD: Fifty years ago, Soviet ruler Josef Stalin launched his so-called Great Plan for the transformation of nature. With central Russia facing dust bowl conditions similar to what hit the American West in the 1930s, Soviet scientists believed trees would shield their topsoil from getting dried out and blown away. Great arborways would be created and extend thousands of miles across the plains of Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine. In all, an area 4 times the size of Germany would be protected. By the end of 1949, trees had been planted on 1.2 million acres, but 2 years later nearly half of them were gone. Workers found it hard to keep up with the pace, the rate of planting declined, and the trees were left untended. The program ended shortly after Stalin's death in 1953. It's estimated that only 10 percent of the trees survive today. Modern China also faces colossal environmental problems, and officials there recently Anneounced a massive tree-planting program to combat erosion and flooding. But the Chinese say they hope to employ a greener thumb. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.
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