The Big Thaw: How Russia Could Dominate a Warming World

Climate change is propelling enormous human migrations as it transforms global agriculture and remakes the world order — and no country stands to gain more than Russia.

by: Abrahm Lustgarten on propublica.org Full Article Here

A soybean field in Russia’s remote Far East that is farmed by a Chinese entrepreneur named Dima. As the planet continues to warm, vast new stretches of Russia will become suitable for agriculture. (Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

IT WAS ONLY November, but the chill already cut to the bone in the small village of Dimitrovo, which sits just 35 miles north of the Chinese border in a remote part of eastern Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region. Behind a row of sagging cabins and decades-old farm equipment, flat fields ran into the brambly branches of a leafless forest before fading into the oblivion of a dreary squall. Several villagers walked the single-lane dirt road, their shoulders rounded against the cold, their ghostly footprints marking the dry white snow.

A few miles down the road, a rusting old John Deere combine growled on through the flurries, its blade churning through dead-brown stalks of soybeans. The tractor lurched to a halt, and a good-humored man named Dima climbed down from the cockpit. Dima, an entrepreneur who farms nearly 6,500 acres of these fields, was born in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China — his birth name is Xin Jie — one of a wave of Chinese to migrate north in pursuit of opportunity in recent years. After Dima’s mostly Chinese laborers returned home this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been forced to do much of the work himself. Bundled against the wind in a camouflage parka, he bent to pick a handful of slender pods from the ground, opening one to reveal a glimpse at Russia’s future.

A great transformation is underway in the eastern half of Russia. For centuries the vast majority of the land has been impossible to farm; only the southernmost stretches along the Chinese and Mongolian borders, including around Dimitrovo, have been temperate enough to offer workable soil. But as the climate has begun to warm, the land — and the prospect for cultivating it — has begun to improve. Twenty years ago, Dima says, the spring thaw came in May, but now the ground is bare by April; rainstorms now come stronger and wetter. Across Eastern Russia, wild forests, swamps and grasslands are slowly being transformed into orderly grids of soybeans, corn and wheat. It’s a process that is likely to accelerate: Russia hopes to seize on the warming temperatures and longer growing seasons brought by climate change to refashion itself as one of the planet’s largest producers of food.

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Howard Rudzki HOWARD RUDZKI Howard Rudzki has turned his passion for bike riding, dogs and education into vehicles to help for good. He started out bike riding when he was 20 for the pleasure and enjoyment that a good ride provides and has been a committed cyclist ever since. Rudzki rides every week either by himself or as part of group and annually participates in fundraising rides. For the last three years, he has ridden in America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, raising money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, whose mission is to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma and improve the quality of lives for their patients and families.When he is not riding, Rudzki spends his time going to animal shelters across the L.A. Basin rescuing older dogs. He is committed to saving displaced, unwanted canines and rehabilitating them with proper medical and nutritional care so they can thrive in safe and caring homes where they will be a loved family member.In addition to helping animals, Rudzki believes he has an obligation to give back to underprivileged communities so that all children are able to receive a good education. Over the years, he has donated computers, printers and software to schools to help develop the future leaders of our city.