For far too long, countries across Africa have borne the brunt of rampant desertification, drought and environmental degradation. However, a massive tree-planting project known as The Great Green Wall of Africa has combined the efforts of over 20 African nations in hopes to reverse the ongoing damage.
With the assistance of international partners and over a decade of work, the Great Green Wall is now bearing fruit.
The wall stretches across about 6,000 miles of the continent along the southern edge of the Sahara desert, or Sahel region. Since the 1970s, the lush vegetation and greenery that blanketed the region has faded away and rapidly degraded into a crusty, barren desert thanks to poor land use policies, bad development, and population growth.
Monique Barbut, who until recently was the executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, noted:
“The Sahel region is one of the most arid and most vulnerable places on earth. Food, water and economic opportunity are often scarce. The local population is growing rapidly and to survive people already face difficult choices every day. If climate change and land degradation continue at the current rate, vulnerable communities could be forced to make some disastrous choices.”
With these problems in mind, African leaders started implementing plans for the Great Green Wall in 2007. Since then, the initiative has seen billions of dollars poured into the project in hopes of building a “natural wonder of the world across the entire width of Africa,” capable of improving local populations’ living conditions, salvaging endangered rural economies and agricultural plots, and increasing the income and food security of generations to come.
The Great Green Wall website explains:
“More than anywhere else on Earth, the Sahel is on the frontline of climate change and millions of locals are already facing its devastating impact. Persistent droughts, lack of food, conflicts over dwindling natural resources, and mass migration to Europe are just some of the many consequences.
… Since the birth of the initiative in 2007, life has started coming back to the land, bringing improved food security, jobs and stability to people’s lives.”
And while the “world wonder” is only about 15 percent complete, participating nations have already noted a marked improvement to ecological conditions in the region.
In Senegal alone, 12-million drought-resistant trees spanning 30 million acres have been planted in under a decade. Over 12 million acres of land has been restored in Nigeria, while a stunning 37 million acres of land have been brought back to life in Ethiopia.
Food security is slowly returning for the millions of hungry and impoverished Africans in the region, while wells are refilling and bringing sustenance to some of the world’s most poverty-stricken communities. In addition to the immediate results, the region is becoming future-proofed against the ravages of climate change, which threaten to render the region uninhabitable at a far more rapid pace than anywhere else on the planet.
Additionally, the Great Green Wall has served as not only a wall of hope for the peoples of the region, but as a bridge toward regional integration and pan-African unity among communities that have engaged in bloody conflicts over dwindling land resources.
Green jobs, sustainable consumption patterns, boosted economic opportunities and broader progress toward social development are among the goals of the initiative, and will serve to allow locals to remain at home–rather than be forced out by the desperation that drives migration from impoverished regions in Africa.
Once the project is completed with the assistance of international organizations and conservationists across the globe, the Great Green Wall will be a truly massive wonder of the world–triple the size of the Great Barrier Reef.
Stressing the need for international support for the Great Green Wall, Barbut added:
“This bold initiative is bringing back natural resources certainly but it is doing much more than that. It is bringing back food and water security. It is creating jobs and new economic opportunities, especially for women and young people in rural areas. It is helping fight climate change. It is letting people not just survive but thrive.”
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.