Craig Hanson is director of the People and Ecosystems Program at the World Resources Institute (WRI). He has helped launch a number of WRI projects, including the Forest Legality Alliance, Project POTICO, and Southern Forests for the Future. In addition, he developed and launched WRI’s Ecosystem Services Initiative.

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For centuries, Minqin Oasis, along the Silk Road in northwestern China, provided a welcome port of call to travelers, serving as a natural barrier against the unremitting dryness of the Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts. That changed in the 1950s, when Chairman Mao implemented a national plan to boost food production. The resulting cultivation, …

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