The Explorers Club, Northern California Chapter

(This meeting will be preceded by our traditional cocktail party hosted by Dan and Rusty Liebowitz and the dinner and presentation will be at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto.)

David Howell, FN-86

The People's Republic of China

The Dynamic of Population, Land, Resources, and Natural Hazards

Map depicting the general distribution of population centers in the People's Republic of China and adjoining areas. Note the vast empty territories encompassing the western two thirds of China. Interestingly, the Chinese refer to the Sichuan basin, the densely populated area EAST of Tibet, as "western" China.

DINNER MEETING - Friday, May 30, 1997, on the Peninsula. Full details will be mailed out next month

China is roughly the size of the United States while its population is at least four times larger; furthermore, 90 percent of the people live on 30 percent of the land. The western two thirds of China is characterized by searing deserts, intervening glaciated mountains and the high Tibetan Plateau, where the average elevation is equivalent in both height and breadth to the tops of the highest Peaks from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevada. Floods and earthquakes have claimed over one million lives in this century alone. The economy of China has been growing in excess of 10 percent per year since 1980. Other than a few springs at high elevations, no water is potable in the entire region. Domestic petroleum production is in sharp decline. These, seemingly unrelated phenomena conspire to influence the current political agenda of China, and probably that of the world in the 21st Century.

The stark, majestic granite peaks of the Yellow Mountains in Eastern China. Despite the enormous of population in eastern China, the area is mountainous, forcing a concentration of peoples along river valleys and coastal lowlands. The mountains impede regional transportation, isolate population centers, and with mountains, there are earthquakes.


Photo of David
David Howell, photograph by Michael Diggles, 9/18/96

David G. Howell received his B.A. from Colgate University and a Ph.D. from Univ. California, Santa Barbara. Other than a year of high-school teaching and three years in the U.S. Army, Howell has spent his entire professional career doing research for the U.S. Geological Survey. Since 1974, this has involved investigating concepts for the growth and shaping of continents and how these ideas may help explain the world-wide distribution of oil and gas. He is a member of a number of scientific societies, including being a fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. During his USGS tenure, he has taught at Stanford University, University of Otago, University of Paris, and is now "Concurrent Professor" at Nanjing University, P.R. China.

A view of the Grand Canal in northern China. Water in China is unevenly distributed. Water is of fundamental importance for drinking, agricultural irrigation, and transportation, hydroelectric generation. Flooding is also a major potential hazard. These hydrologic attributes commonly compete one with the other.

A glimpse of the 1500-km wide Taklamakan Desert of western China. The desert is bounded by the northern and southern Silk Routes, and has itself a Uyghur name that means "when you go in you don't come out".

The May newsletter will include excerpts from the news story about David Smith and his swimming companion.

Newspaper clipping of David Smith after crocodile attack

Date created: 04/10/1997
Last modified: 06/21/2015
Content from Charlie (Chapter Secretary) and Louise Geraci. email to Charlie and Louise
Web page by: Mike Diggles, Webmaster, Northern California Chapter of the Explorers Club. email Mike

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