Posts with «budget» label

Canada is banning the sale, production and import of some single-use plastics

Canada is banning companies from producing and importing a handful of single-use plastics by the end of the year, Reuters reports. Among the items the country won’t allow the production of include plastic shopping bags, takeout containers and six-pack rings for holding cans and bottles together.

We promised to ban harmful single-use plastics, and we’re keeping that promise. The ban on the making and importing of plastic bags, cutlery, straws and other items comes into effect in December 2022 – and selling these items is prohibited as of December 2023.

— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 20, 2022

The federal government will subsequently prohibit the sale of those same items in 2023, with an export ban to follow in 2025. The one-year gap between the initial ban and the one that follows is designed to give businesses in Canada enough time to transition their stock of the listed items. Over the next ten years, the federal government estimates the new regulation will eliminate approximately 1.3 tonnes of plastic waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter.

Not targeted by Canada’s new regulations are plastic fishing nets and lines, which can be far more problematic than single-use plastics like straws and shopping bags. Discarded fishing gear leads to ghost fishing, a phenomenon where those tools continue to trap and kill marine life. With more than 640,000 tons worth of fishing nets discarded every year, it’s a problem that’s only getting worse and one Canada’s plastics ban doesn’t address.

"It's a drop in the bucket," Sarah King, the head of Greenpeace Canada's oceans and plastics campaign, told the CBC. "Until the government gets serious about overall reductions of plastic production, we're not going to see the impact we need to see in the environment or in our waste streams."

The ban follows a similar one enacted by France last year and is part of a broader move by governments across the world to curb the production of single-use plastics. In March, the United Nations agreed to begin work on a first-ever global plastic pollution treaty. While the agreement won’t be complete until 2024 at the earliest, it could be among the most significant efforts to curb climate change since the Paris agreement in 2015.

DJI's RS3 mirrorless camera stabilizer unlocks automatically and is easier to balance

DJI has significantly expanded its gimbal lineup with the RS3 and RS3 Pro models designed for mirrorless and cinema cameras. It also launched some other interesting cinema products derived from the innovative Ronin 4D camera gimbal, including a LiDAR focusing system and "DJI Transmission" for remote monitoring and control of compatible gimbals. Finally, it announced that it has joined Panasonic and Leica's full-frame L-Mount alliance and unveiled a compensation for removing ProRes RAW from the Ronin 4D. 

DJI's flagship mainstream gimbal is now the DJI RS3. The key new feature over the RSC 2 is an automatic locking system that releases and unfolds the gimbal when it's turned on, then folds and locks it when turned off. That avoids the usual dance of steadying the camera by hand when turning off the gimbal, then manually locking three separate axes. 

DJI

Tapping the power button sends it into sleep mode, "which makes powering on the device, stowing it away and relocating much faster," DJI notes. It also uses quick-release plates for "position memory" so in theory, you only have to balance your camera once. 

It weighs in at just under 2.8 pounds but can handle a payload of 6.6 pounds, enough to support most mainstream mirrorless cameras. The 3rd-generation stabilization algorithm offers a 20 percent improvement over the RSC 2, so it's easier to shoot low angles, running or filming from a moving vehicle. For longer lenses up to 100mm, SuperSmooth provides further electronic stabilization. 

DJI

It has a Bluetooth shutter button that supports automatic connection without the need for a camera control cable, along with a 1.8-inch full-color OLED display with 80 percent more surface area than the RSC 2. That screen allows a full gimbal setup in most scenarios without connecting the mobile app, while the redesigned UI and control layout makes it easier to operate. Part of that is a new physical gimbal mode switch that lets you select pan follow, pan and tilt follow and FPV modes instantly. 

Finally, a new battery grip provides up to 12 hours of battery life and can be easily changed out via a quick release system. It supports PD fast charging at 18 watts and can be charged independently or during use for non-stop operation. The DJI RS3 gimbal is now available from authorized retailers and at DJI's store priced at $550 for the standalone gimbal and $720 for the DJI RS3 Combo that adds a briefcase handle, focus motor, second control cable and a carrying case. 

DJI

Next up is the RS3 Pro, another technological tour de force from DJI. It's built from carbon fiber so it weighs just 3.3 pounds, but can handle up to 10 pounds of payload — enough for pro cinema cameras like the Sony FX6, Canon C70 and RED Komodo. Like the RS3, it also has the new automated axis lock system, Bluetooth shutter button, 1.8-inch OLED touchscreen and gimbal mode switch. 

The RS3 Pro borrows a key feature from the Ronin 4D, the optional DJI LiDAR Range Finder. It projects 43,200 ranging points within a 46 foot indoor area, and powers a next-generation focus motor with extra torque and one-step mounting. That allows for "autofocus on manual lenses with no need for repetitive calibration," according to DJI. 

DJI

The LiDAR Range Finder has the same chip as the one on the Ronin 4D and a built-in 30mm camera, giving similar ActiveTrack Pro focus and gimbal tracking capabilities. That will allow pro cameras to maintain steady, clear shots in "even more dynamic scenarios," DJI says. The RS3 Pro is now available starting at $870 or $1,100 in a combo with an extended quick release plate, phone holder, focus motor and kit, Ronin Image Transmitter and more. The LiDAR Range Finder will be sold separately priced at $660. 

DJI has also announced that it's selling the DJI Transmission remote control/monitor seen with the Ronin 4D as a separate device. It uses DJI's O3 tech used on drones like the Mavic 3, transmitting video in 1080p/60fps at a ground range of up to 20,000 feet with end-to-end ultra-low latency. Monitoring is done via the 7-inch, 1,500-nit High-Bright Remote Monitor. 

DJI

With compatible devices like the RS3 Pro, you can not only monitor and record video output but also control the gimbal, camera recording and more, using the DJI Master Wheel and Force Pro. It also adds a DFS band that allows for up to 23 channels, letting large crews work simultaneously with ten or more transmitters. The DJI Transmission arrives this September for $2,500 or you can purchase the High-Bright Monitor separately for $1,700. 

Finally, DJI announced that it's now a member of the L-Mount Alliance and has partnered with Leica on the Zenmuse X9 L-Mount unit that's compatible with Leica, Panasonic and Sigma L-Mount lenses. And for any Ronin 4D buyers disappointed with the removal of Apple ProRes RAW support, DJI announced that it will support Apple ProRes 4444 XQ, the highest-quality ProRes codec short of ProRes RAW. 

Automakers want Congress to drop the EV tax credit cap

The $7,500 federal EV tax credit has been used for several years to entice consumers to make greener car purchasing decisions, but it has expired for some automakers — and they feel the government needs to remove limits on that incentive. Reuters has learned the CEOs of Ford, GM, Stellantis and Toyota sent a letter to congressional leadership asking them to eliminate the sales-based tax credit cap. The move would help counter economic factors and supply shortages that have raised the costs of producing EVs, according to the companies.

The credit currently applies to the first 200,000 cars sold by any given brand. GM and Tesla have already reached the 200,000-unit mark, while both Ford and Toyota could hit the cap this year. This doesn't affect state-level discounts. The companies hope Congress will replace the unit-based cap with a sunset date that would end the credit once the EV marketplace is "more mature."

It's not certain that enough politicians will warm up to the idea. Senator Joe Manchin, for instance, recently questioned the need for extended credits when EV demand regularly outstrips supply. And when the current Senate frequently shoots down bills without clear bipartisan support, any attempt to legislate the credit could fall apart.

The companies have strong motivations to act now, though. Republicans may regain control of one or both sides of Congress during this fall's midterm elections, and car industry execs are concerned the shift in power could kill chances of extending tax credits. Former President Trump tried to axe the credit in his proposed 2020 budget, and had the support of Republicans — the chances aren't high that the GOP will back an extension.

The customer tax breaks might not be as necessary as they once were, mind you. GM plans to sell a Chevy Equinox EV around $30,000, while Tesla has long-term plans for a $25,000 car. Although these models are years away and won't compete with the lowest-priced conventional cars, they hint at a future where EVs are genuinely affordable without government subsidies.

DJI suspends sales in Russia and Ukraine to prevent its drones from being used in combat

DJI has temporarily suspended sales and all business activities in both Russia and Ukraine "in light of current hostilities," the dronemaker has announced. As Reuters reports, that makes it the first major Chinese company to halt sales in Russia after the country started its invasion of Ukraine in February. Unlike their peers in the West, most Chinese companies have chosen to continue their operations in the country. 

A DJI spokesperson told Reuters that it's not making a statement about any country by pulling out of Russia and Ukraine — it's making a statement about its principles. "DJI abhors any use of our drones to cause harm, and we are temporarily suspending sales in these countries in order to help ensure no-one uses our drones in combat," the spokesperson told the news organization. 

This move comes a month after Ukrainian politician Mykhailo Fedorov called on DJI to stop selling its products in Russia. The country's Minister of Digital Transformation posted an open letter for the dronemaker on Twitter that says Russia is using DJI products to navigate its missiles "to kill civilians." It also says Russia is using an extended version of DJI's AeroScope drone detection platform to gather flight information. 

In addition, MediaMarkt, a German chain of stores selling electronics across Europe, removed DJI's products from its shelves after receiving "information from various sources that the Russian army is using products and data from the Chinese drone supplier DJI for military activities in Ukraine." DJI denied that it was actively supporting the Russian military not just by providing hardware, but also by providing flight data and called the accusations "utterly false." 

In 21 days of the war, russian troops has already killed 100 Ukrainian children. they are using DJI products in order to navigate their missile. @DJIGlobal are you sure you want to be a partner in these murders? Block your products that are helping russia to kill the Ukrainians! pic.twitter.com/4HJcTXFxoY

— Mykhailo Fedorov (@FedorovMykhailo) March 16, 2022

A few days ago, DJI issued a statement to condemn the use of its products to cause harm. It said it does not market or sell its products for military use and that its distributors have all agreed not to sell products to customers who'll clearly use them for military purposes. "We will never accept any use of our products to cause harm, and we will continue striving to improve the world with our work," the company wrote.

BTS dance lessons are coming to Apple Fitness+

Get ready for a Dynamite workout. Apple has a few updates for Fitness+ timed with International Dance Day, which is coming up on April 29th, and arguably the most interesting are the new Dance workouts set to Korean pop sensation BTS' music. Through its existing relationship with BTS, Apple will be teaching users the actual choreography from videos for songs like "Dynamite," "Mic Drop" and, very aptly, "Permission to Dance." 

The first of the BTS dance workouts will arrive next week, but Apple is also bringing new content to its Artist Spotlight series. In addition to music from BTS, Fitness+ is also getting playlists from ABBA and Queen. Every Monday over the next four weeks, there will be new workouts featuring each artist across categories like Strength, HIIT, Treadmill, Cycling, Yoga, Pilates and Dance. 

There will be new dance workouts featuring music from other musicians too, including sessions led by trainer Jhon Gonzalez set to genres like cumbia, tango and Indian pop. While the Fitness+ team generally comes up with their own choreography, for the BTS videos they will be teaching the band's own smooth-like-Butter moves. 

Those who work hard enough and shed some Blood, Sweat and Tears (okay, hopefully no blood) on April 29th will be eligible to earn limited-edition awards and animated Messages stickers. You'll have to be On the workout for at least 20 minutes, and Fitness+ will highlight six sessions of that duration to help you Go get those rewards.

On April 25, which by the way is the perfect date for a Spring Day, Apple will also release a new collection of workouts to ease beginners into dancing with three 20-minute guides. There will also be three 30-minute options that focus more on performance, and span categories like 80's classics, Latin music and hip hop. That last one is great for Hip Hop Lovers.

If BTS is your Idol, this news is probably Dope. Or Fire. Apple may add more workouts based on the band's music so Stay tuned for more. And if BTS or dance are not your thing, then Life Goes On.

DJI's latest work drone can fly autonomously in harsh weather

You might soon see DJI's drones flying in particularly rough conditions. DJI has unveiled the Matrice 30 (aka M30), an enterprise-class drone with IP55 dust and water resistance that lets it fly in heavy rain, strong wind and even icy situations. It can fly to altitudes as high as 22,965ft above sea level (with the right propellers) and survive temperatures between -4F and 122F, too. Even the included RC Plus controller can handle a downpour thanks to an IP54-rated body.

The M30 can also fold with a button press. The self-heating battery lasts for 41 minutes, but the charging case can bring the drone from 20 percent to 90 percent in 30 minutes.

DJI's robotic flier will also require little human intervention in some cases. A variant of the M30 will support an upcoming DJI Dock that, like other drone stations, lets the aircraft fly programmed routes and autonomously land to recharge between rounds. You can remotely monitor work sites from the air in areas where beyond-line-of-sight drone use is allowed, in other words. The dock is dust- and water-resistant, includes its own weather station and has both a battery backup and 4G dongle support to keep it running.

DJI is taking orders for the M30 today through a contact form. The dock will be available sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022, and M300 RTK drone owners can also buy a new Zenmuse H20N sensor with "starlight-grade" night vision. There's no mention of pricing, but it's safe to assume individual drone enthusiasts aren't the target market. This is for companies that have the need and budget to fly drones on a regular basis.

Amazon's latest Echo Show 5 is on sale for $45 right now

Now might be a good moment to buy an Echo Show 5 as a smart alarm clock. Amazon is once more selling the second-gen Echo Show 5 for a record-low $45, or a large 47 percent below the official price. You can also buy the Kids edition for $55 (42 percent off) if the colorful shell and year-long Kids+ subscription prove appealing.

Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $45Buy Echo Show 5 Kids at Amazon - $55

The Echo Show 5 is practically tailor-made for your nightstand between its small size, a sunrise alarm and a tap-to-snooze feature. It sounds surprisingly good for its size and includes a camera (with privacy shutter) for morning video calls. If you just want to check the weather or control your Alexa-powered smart home from your bed, this is all you need.

There are some limitations. The interface isn't quite as elegant as Google's Nest Hub, and you'll want that device if you use other Nest devices or otherwise immerse yourself in the Google Assistant ecosystem. The video calling performance isn't a huge leap over the first-gen Echo Show 5, and you can't plug in a better set of speakers. For $45, though, there's not much room to complain — it costs less than an Echo Dot with clock while offering more overall functionality.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Anonymous claims responsibility for Russian government website outages

On Saturday morning, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its third day, some of the country’s official government websites went down following a series of alleged cyberattacks. Among the sites that aren’t accessible as of the writing of this article include that of the Kremlin and the country’s Ministry of Defence. Several Twitter accounts claiming affiliation with Anonymous say the international hacking collective is behind the attacks.

The Anonymous collective is officially in cyber war against the Russian government. #Anonymous#Ukraine

— Anonymous (@YourAnonOne) February 24, 2022

“Faced with this series of attacks that Ukraine has been suffering from the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, we could not help but support the Ukrainian people,” said one account. At the start of the conflict, the group said it would launch a “cyber war against the Russian government.” However, the Kremlin has denied Anonymous is behind the attacks, according to CNN.

It’s believed Anonymous is also responsible for hacking several Russian state TV channels. People have uploaded videos showing those channels playing Ukrainian music and displaying images of the country’s flag and other nationalistic symbols. 

Someone hacked into Russian state TV channels. They feature Ukrainian music and national symbols. 🇺🇦

Internet users suspect that this may be another action by the hacker group #Anonymous, which declared a cyber war to Russia in connection with the attack on #Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/XaoclymVTs

— Beczka (@Beczkax1) February 26, 2022

The collective has also pledged to “keep the Ukrainian people online as best we can,” even as the invasion takes a heavy toll on the country's internet infrastructure. While there hasn’t been a widespread blackout, some parts of Ukraine, particularly those areas where fighting has been the most intense, have seen greatly diminished access. That's something that has prevented people from staying in touch with their loved ones.

US and Britain blame Russia for cyberattacks on Ukraine's websites

Russia is responsible for the cyberattacks that took down the websites for Ukraine's government agencies and major banks back in January, according to The White House. Anne Neuberger, the administration's deputy national security adviser, said the government has "technical information that links the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU" to the hacks. Neuberger added that "GRU infrastructure was seen transmitting high volumes of communication to Ukraine based IP addresses and domains."

According to AP and Reuters, Britain has also publicly attributed the incident to Russia, saying that the country's GRU military intelligence agency is almost certainly involved. While the attacks managed to take down the targeted Ukrainian websites, Neuberger said they had "limited impact," thanks to the the country's officials that quickly secured and restored them. 

Ukraine's defense and foreign ministries were among the affected websites, and a message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish left by the attackers on the latter translated to: "Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them." The message also referenced the "historical land" and showed crossed-out versions of the Ukraine map and flag. 

The Ukrainian Information Ministry said back then that there were early indications Russia carried out the attacks. In addition, the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy also suggested that references to Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups were merely an attempt by the Russians to mask their footprint. 

Neuberger said the White House is publicly calling out Kremlin, because "[t]he global community must be prepared to shine a light on malicious cyber activity and hold actors accountable for any and all disruptive or destructive cyber activity." Although the attacks had "limited impact," the White House believes Russia could carry out more disruptive activities in the future followed by an invasion of Ukraine. President Biden has announced on Friday that the US has obtained intelligence showing that Russia's Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine in the coming days. 

Hitting the Books: 'Miracle Rice' fed China's revolution but endangered its crop diversity

Feeding the planet's 8 billion people is challenge enough and our current industrialized commercial practices are causing such ecological damage that we may soon find ourselves hard-pressed to feed any more. For decades, scientists have sought out higher yields and faster growth at the expense of genetic diversity and disease — just look at what we've done to the humble banana. Now, finally, researchers are working to revitalize landrace and heirloom crop varieties, using their unique, and largely forgotten, genetic diversity to reimagine global agriculture. 

In his new book, Eating to Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them, BBC food journalist Dan Saladino scours the planet in search of animals, vegetables and legumes most at-risk of extinction, documenting their origins and declines, as well as the efforts being made to preserve and restore them. In the excerpt below, Saladino takes a look at all-important rice, the cereal that serves as a staple crop for more than 3.5 billion people around the world.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux publishing

Excerpted from Eating to Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them by Dan Saladino. Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Copyright © 2021 by Dan Saladino. All rights reserved.


Whereas the global Green Revolution was largely steered by American science and finance, China’s push for greater food production was more self-contained. Both efforts happened more or less in parallel. Mao’s attempt at rapid industrialization, the ‘Great Leap Forward’ in the late 1950s, forced farmers off their land, leading to famine and the death of millions. Soon after, an agricultural researcher, Yuan Longping, was given the task of helping China’s recovery by increasing the supply of rice. Based in a lab in Hunan, Yuan, like Borlaug in Mexico, spent years working with landraces and crossing varieties in meticulous experiments. By the early 1970s, he had developed Nan-you No. 2, a hybrid rice so productive it had the potential to increase food supply by nearly a third. Farmers were told to replace the old varieties with the new, and by the start of the 1980s, more than 50 per cent of China’s rice came from this single variety. But, as with Borlaug’s wheat, Yuan’s rice depended on huge amounts of fertilizers, pesticides and lots and lots of water.

In the 1960s, in another part of Asia, a team of scientists were also breeding new rice varieties. What became known as the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines was funded by the American Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. The IRRI’s plant breeders also made a breakthrough drawing on the genetics of a dwarf plant. This new pest-resistant, high-yielding rice, called IR8, was released across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1966. Using the Green Revolution package of irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides, IR8 tripled yields and became known as ‘miracle rice’. As it rapidly spread across Asia (with the necessary agrichemicals subsidized by Western foundations and governments), farmers were encouraged to abandon their landrace varieties and help share the new seeds with neighbors and relatives in other villages. Social occasions, including weddings, were treated by Western strategists as opportunities to distribute IR8. A decade later, rice scientist Gurdev Khush, the son of an Indian rice farmer, improved on the ‘miracle rice’ (IR8 wasn’t the tastiest rice to eat and had a chalky texture). A later iteration, IR64, was so productive that it became the most widely cultivated rice variety in the world. But while most of the world was applauding the increase in calories created by the new rice varieties, some people were sounding a note of caution about what was also being lost.

In July 1972, with the Green Revolution in full flow, the botanist Jack Harlan published an article entitled ‘The Genetics of Disaster’. As the world’s population was increasing faster than at any time in history, Harlan said, crop diversity was being eroded at an equally unprecedented rate. ‘These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine,’ he argued. ‘In a very real sense, the future of the human race rides on these materials.’ Bad things can happen at the hands of nature, Harlan reminded his readers, citing the Irish potato famine. ‘We can survive if a forest or shade tree is destroyed, but who would survive if wheat, rice, or maize were to be destroyed? We are taking risks we need not and should not take.’ The solutions being developed in the Green Revolution would be as good as they could be until they failed – and when they did, the human race would be left facing disaster, he warned. ‘Few will criticize Dr. Borlaug for doing his job too well. The enormous increase in . . . yields is a welcome relief and his achievements are deservedly recognized, but if we fail to salvage at least what is left of the landrace populations of Asia before they are replaced, we can justifiably be condemned by future generations for squandering our heritage and theirs.’ We were moving from genetic erosion, he said, to genetic wipe-out. ‘The line between abundance and disaster is becoming thinner and thinner, and the public is unaware and unconcerned. Must we wait for disaster to be real before we are heard? Will people listen only after it is too late?’ It may be nearly too late, but, fifty years on, people are listening to Harlan.

One of them is Susan McCouch, Professor of Plant Breeding and Genetics at Cornell University and an expert on rice genetics. Her research includes the less familiar aus rice which evolved in the Bangladeshi delta. ‘It has the most stress-tolerant genes of all the rice we know,’ says McCouch. ‘It grows on poor soils, survives drought and is the fastest species to go from seed to grain.’ And yet aus is endangered. Most farmers in Bangladesh have abandoned it and switched to more commercial varieties. Only the poorest people have saved the rice, farmers who couldn’t afford to buy fertilizers and build irrigation systems. Its genetics are so rare because, unlike japonica and indica which travelled far and wide, aus stayed put. ‘The people who domesticated it never left the river delta,’ says McCouch. ‘They weren’t empire builders, didn’t have armies and never enslaved populations.’ But by bequeathing the world aus, they have left their mark.

In 2018, McCouch, along with researchers from USDA, released a new rice called Scarlett. It was, the team said, a rice with nutty rich flavors but also ‘packed with high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids along with vitamin E’. To create it, McCouch had crossed an American long-grain rice called Jefferson and a rice that was discovered in Malaysia. The reason the new rice was packed with nutrients and called Scarlett was because the Malaysian plant was a red-colored wild species. One person who would have been unsurprised at the special qualities of these colored grains was Sun Wenxiang, the farmer I had visited in Sichuan.

Inside a room on his farm, Sun was packing up small parcels of his special red rice to send to customers in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hangzhou. They order his red mouth rice on WeChat, the Chinese social media app used by more than a billion people across Asia that is part Twitter and part PayPal (and so much more). Some have told him they buy it for its taste or intriguing color, but most buy it for its health properties.

For farmers such as Sun working to save China’s endangered foods, help is at hand at the Centre for Rural Reconstruction, a modern day iteration of a movement founded a century ago to empower peasants and revitalize villages. In the 1920s a group of intellectuals and smallholders set up the original Rural Reconstruction Movement to develop farms, improve crops, establish co-operatives and sell more produce in China’s towns and cities. After the revolution, and during Mao’s rule, it disappeared, but in the 1990s was resurrected. A former government economist named Professor Wen Tiejun believed rural communities across China faced serious decline as manufacturing boomed and millions of people migrated from thousands of villages. By 2010, the country had experienced the largest and most rapid rural-to-urban migration ever witnessed in human history. Professor Wen began to ask what this meant for the future of China’s small-scale farmers and the food they produced and, as a result, he launched the New Rural Reconstruction Movement.

The garden surrounding the two-story training center 50 miles north of Beijing is a statement of intent: its raised beds are fertilized with night soil, the nutrients processed from a row of eco-toilets (an ancient technique, as Chinese farmers enriched their fields using human and animal waste for thousands of years). The idea came from a book written a century ago, not by a Chinese agricultural expert, but an American one. Farmers of Forty Centuries by Franklin Hiram King has become essential reading matter for some students at China’s Centre for Rural Reconstruction.

In the early 1900s, King, an agronomist from Wisconsin, worked at the United States Department of Agriculture, but he was regarded as a maverick, more interested in indigenous farming systems than the agricultural expansion the department had been set up to deliver. Convinced that he could learn more from peasant farmers than the scientists in Washington, King left the United States in 1909 and set out on an eight-month expedition through Asia. ‘I had long desired to stand face to face with Chinese and Japanese farmers,’ he wrote in the book’s introduction, ‘to walk through their fields and to learn by seeing some of their methods, appliances and practices which centuries of stress and experience have led these oldest farmers in the world to adopt.’ King died in 1911 before he had completed his book and the work was pretty much forgotten until 1927, when a London publisher, Jonathan Cape, discovered the manuscript and published it, ensuring it remained in print for the next twenty years. It went on to influence the founding figures in Britain’s organic movement, Albert Howard and Eve Balfour. The farmers who visit the Centre for Rural Reconstruction and come across King’s book, will read an account of how food was produced in China’s villages a century ago. Crops grown then, now endangered, are also being resurrected.

Inside a storeroom at the center, now a bank of some of China’s rarest foods, I was shown boxes full of seeds and jars and packets of ingredients all produced by farming projects in villages supported by the New Rural Reconstruction Movement. All were distinctive products that were helping to increase farmers’ incomes. There was dark green soy from Yunnan in the south; red-colored ears of wheat from the north; wild tea harvested from ancient forests; and bottles of honey-colored rice wine. And among other varieties of landrace rice was Sun Wenxiang’s red mouth glutinous grains.

‘When we lose a traditional food, a variety of rice or a fruit, we store up problems for the future,’ Professor Wen told me. ‘There’s no question China needs large-scale farms, but we also need diversity.’ With 20 per cent of the world’s population, China encapsulates the biggest food dilemmas of our times. Should it intensify farming to produce more calories, or diversify to help save the planet? In the long run, there is no option but to change the system. China suffers from wide-scale soil erosion, health-harming levels of pollution and water shortages. As a consequence, land has become contaminated, there are algae blooms around its coastline and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

There are signs of change. In September 2016 China ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Among the specific targets it set was zero growth in fertilizer and pesticide use. To conserve more of its genetic resources and crop diversity, China is one of the few countries investing heavily in new botanic gardens to protect and study endangered species. The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences has also built a collection of half a million samples of landrace crops, varieties now being researched for future use. This is what Jack Harlan might have called the genetics of salvation. It’s a long way from King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries, but there is clear recognition that China’s current food system can’t go on as before.

‘We need to modernize and develop, but that doesn’t mean letting go of our past,’ said Wen. ‘The entire world should not be chasing one way of living, we can’t all eat the same kind of food, that is a crazy ideology.’ And then he shared the famous quote attributed to Napoleon: ‘Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.’ ‘Well,’ said Wen, ‘we have woken up and we’ve started to eat more like the rest of the world. We need to find better ways of living and farming. Maybe some answers can be found in our traditions.’