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The Great Green Wall

Below are the notes/script for Season 2 Episode 4 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast.

  • The Great Green Wall
  • The world’s human population has been growing exponentially for as long as our history books can remember.
    • The human race hit it’s first recorded 1 Billion mark during the year 1804. It took thousands of years of innovation and reproduction to reach this milestone.
    • Then, just over 100 years later in 1927, we reached 2 Billion.
    • And after that, the rate of growth accelerated at an alarming pace, 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion 1974, 5 billion 1987, 6 billion 1999, and in October of 2011 we reached 7 Billion…. and the number just keeps rising
      • That’s a lot of mouths to feed
    • The 2020 census revealed that the continent of Asia makes up about 60% of the world population
    • Africa coming in at a not-so-close second at 17%. But That is expected to change
Image from WorldOMeters.info
  • The rate of Africa’s current population growth is the highest in the world today. It is believed that Africa will increase to over 40% of the world’s population just within 100 years.
    • Africa is facing a massive population boom and this is just the beginning.
    • World leaders and local rulers alike have been making plans to smooth Africa’s transition into the heaviest populated continent on Earth.
    • This episode is about one of those plans. This is about the Great Green Wall.
  • Let me start with a definition: Desertification
    • Oxford defines Desertification as the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.
    • I define it as an area losing all its life-sustaining water by various means.
    • It is important to note: Once an area has succumbed to desertification, there is virtually nothing we as humans can do. It takes thousands of years for massive geological events to occur that might transform a desert landscape into a region capable of retaining water.
  • So let’s talk about how desertification has impacted humans: Everyone knows about the Great Pyramids of Giza, But how about the countless ancient ruins and entire ecosystems buried beneath the Sahara?
  • Harry Pettit from the UK’s DailyMail writes: How humans created the Sahara desert: Farming transformed the grassy plain into an arid wasteland 8,000 years ago. The Sahara desert is known today as a vast, arid plain that is exposed to punishing temperatures and little rainfall. But just a few thousand years ago it was grassy and dotted with lakes.
    • Today, entire Ancient cities lie beneath the Sahara’s sands because of the desertification of Northern Africa. One of the most advanced ancient civilizations farmed the region in an unsustainable way and now it is a dead region. Those ancient Egyptians didn’t know how to stop the expanse of this desert and likely had no clue they were the cause of it.
    • Desertification was devastating to the Ancient Egyptians, and now it is doing the same to modern Africans.
Ancient Roman outpost in Algeria preserved by the Sahara desert.
An ancient tree long buried beneath the Sahara showing what desertification did to forest of the past.
  • LEON USIGBE from the UN’s Africa Renewal project: The Lake Chad “Basin” that covers almost 8% of the continent, spreads over seven countries: Algeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Libya, Niger, and Nigeria. The water body has diminished by 90% since the 1960s due to overuse and climate change effects.
    • That Lake Chad, once one of Africa’s largest freshwater bodies and a source of livelihood for about 30 million, is vanishing fast is no longer breaking news. What is new is the unique and complex humanitarian crisis around the basin, which is among the most severe in the world.
    • “The widespread violence has left 10.7 million people across the Lake Chad region in need of emergency assistance. Most of these people were already contending with high poverty rates, poor provision of basic services like education and healthcare, and the devastating impact of climate change.
    • So desertification isn’t simply solved by having people move away from the desert. The loss of water causes mass chaos. When resources are scarce, war erupts, and water is the most valuable resource to all life on earth.
    • This isn’t just a problem for farmers, it is problem for society as a whole… a problem for all life.
  • Side note: I try to stay neutral on political topics on this show, but when it comes to the environment… I am not afraid to say that I am all for protecting the natural world that we as humans have been destroying at alarming rates.
    • I don’t pretend to know all the science behind climate change and what all factors into the cause of it, but it IS happening. Climate change is real, and it is speeding up desertification around the globe at much faster rates than before industrialization. Now more than ever, we must address desertification. Why not start with the biggest case, the Sahara!
Image from the UN.org
  • The Sahara Desert covers 9.2 Million Square Kilometers OR 3.6 Million Square Miles
    • From Coast to Coast along Northern Africa, the Sahara spans over Three Thousand miles
    • It is the largest hot desert on Earth.
  • The Sahara is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Red Sea on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Sahel Savannah on the south. The enormous desert spans 11 countries:
    • The Great Green Wall is the idea to plant a MASSIVE wall of trees at the southern edge of the Sahara desert to stop desertification. It is a GIGANTIC international project.
    • Here’s what the UN had to say: The Great Green Wall is a symbol of hope in the face of one of the biggest challenges of our time – desertification. Launched in 2007 by the African Union, this game-changing African-led initiative aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes and transform millions of lives in one of the world’s poorest regions, the Sahel. Once complete, the Wall will be the largest living structure on the planet – an 8,000 km natural wonder of the world stretching across the entire width of the continent.
    • The Great Green Wall is now being implemented in more than 20 countries across Africa and more than eight billion dollars have been mobilized and pledged for its support. The initiative brings together African countries and international partners, under the leadership of the African Union Commission and Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall.
    • By 2030, the ambition of the initiative is to restore 100 million hectares of currently degraded land; sequester 250 million tons of carbon, and create 10 million green jobs. This will support communities living along the Wall.
  • If you are confused by how this all works, well so was I.
    • At first, I was just imagining teams of laborers trying to plant trees in the middle of the sun-bleached Saharan sands. Which makes no sense, because trees wouldn’t survive that and it would be much too expensive to even try.
    • But the Great Green wall isn’t going to be planted out where the desert has fully taken hold of the environment. The trees will be planted in an area known as the Sahel.
    • I’m simplifying things here, but the Sahel is a region in between the fertile savannahs of Africa and the barren landscape of the Sahara. It’s an area where desertification has started but hasn’t fully set in yet.
  • The Trees planted by the Great Green Wall help by:
    • keeping the soil in place where it used to be eroded by wind
    • providing compost from fallen leaves
    • increase humidity in the surrounding areas
    • provide shade so less water is needed for crops
    • and the tree roots retain water in the soil
      • formerly dry wells along the Sahel region have filled up with water again
  • The project is planting Drought Resistant Acacia Trees so they have a greater chance of survival.
  • The first countries started working on the project as early as 2008. Communities all along the Great Green Wall have seen major improvements in their standard of living.
    • The Great Green Wall provides jobs, not just for tree planters, but because the soil retains more water, farming and gardening jobs are more widely available.
    • New communities have sprung up along the Great Green Wall and old communities have been reinvigorated. The GGW has made produce more available so people are getting better diets, and school attendance has been increasing.
  • Conclusion: Africa’s human population is growing at an alarming rate. The problems that the continent has faced in the past, are only going to become more difficult to fix due to this population boom.
    • Desertification, a threat dating back thousands of years, is now endangering more lives than ever, and its impact is irreversible.
    • To solve this problem, a massive international project is currently underway and it is called the Great Green Wall.
    • This massive project is one of hope, not just for Africa, but for all of humanity.
    • I wanted to make you all aware of it to give you some hope in humanity today.
  • The accompanying blog post is in this podcast’s description. There you will find images that enhance this information as well as show all my sources.
    • I have also included a link where you can contribute to the Great Green Wall.
    • I am not sponsored by The Great Green Wall. This is simply a project I feel very passionate about. It is a very beneficial project for saving the natural world and bringing nations together in the face of adversity. If any of you feel the same way, please help any way you can.
  • WANT TO DONATE?

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