Watching the Sahara Forest Project


Concept rendering from the Sahara Forest Project

When recently talking to Jonathan, I listed a number of my change-the-world-for-the-better dreams. They are the pie-in-the-sky, far-too-expensive ideas that maybe a stable government or one of the top 100 richest people in the world could bootstrap. I am neither a government, nor one of those people.

The ideas I have, however, don't belong to only me. If they did, they probably wouldn't be spectacularly good (or so amazingly good that conveying could be difficult). Validating an idea is a good thing: having competition or someone else consider the same idea do this.

One of the grand-dream ideas I had was of desert reclamation.

Poor agricultural practice of the early 1900s, coupled with aggressive settling and a cessation of an unusually wet decade produced the Dust Bowl in the early 1930s. The deep-rooted, native grasses of American plains were displaced by crops, which failed to hold the local topsoil when the droughts began. The wind storms of the time eroded the land, producing dark clouds that reached the East Coast, eventually depositing the formerly placed, rich virgin topsoil into the Atlantic Ocean.

While I am unsure how much of that destroyed land has since been recovered, adjusting the boundaries of an existing desert, by helping the edges creep in with deliberate tree, shrub, and grass planting, appeals to me. The idea of adjusting the micro-climates of the edges and seeing the results over years and decades, wow, just really appeals to me, too. Being able to change unused and unusable land into a productive and usable land, wow, that's the essence of that childhood dream.

And, apparently it appeals others, also.


There's a project happening in the Sahara Desert that is similar to my idea, but uses the strengths of the desert to transform the land into a productive resource. Instead of transforming the land, the strengths of the area (SUN! HEAT!) are used to create a power plant and giant greenhouses, with systems that desalinate the close-by water sources for growing food.

I first read about the Sahara Forest Project in New Scientist in January. When I read it, I thought, "Wow, yay!" It's not necessarily the desert reclamation that I was thinking about as a kid and teen and adult, but it puts to use land that would normally go unused. This makes me happy.

Sometimes a goal doesn't need to be reached by the person setting it, it just needs to be reached. I am so way looking forward to watching this project succeed.



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