Look down on Ulaanbaatar from the hills at its edge, and you will see a central hotchpotch of new skyscrapers and crumbling Soviet tower blocks surrounded by an unplanned periphery of white yurts, or, as they are known in Mongolia, gers. Thousands and thousands of gers.
These are the homes of around 600,000 former herders who – like Altansukh – have migrated to the Mongolian capital in the past three decades. The scale of the migration is extraordinary: around 20% of the country’s people have moved to Ulaanbaatar, doubling the city’s population and significantly increasing its physical footprint.
One partial explanation lies in the environment. Over the past 70 years, the average temperature in Mongolia has risen by 2.07 degrees, more than double the average global increase of 0.85 degrees over the past century. This has exacerbated a periodic weather phenomenon known in Mongolia as the dzud, which creates summers that are unusually dry, followed by spells during the winter that are unusually cold.
Well what can we say? Probably very few people worry about the plight of Mongolian herders as they drive out to get a coffee from a fast food outlet or zip off from Newquay airport to some holiday destination! Sad but true!