The Great Green Wall of Africa
A trillion trees can change the world
The leaves rustled faintly in the light warm breeze. The last of the muezzin’s morning calls to prayer echoed across the valley as the sun rose. Ahmed Iddi rolled up his mat and strolled between the trees towards his small farm. Touching the tree trunks as he walked, he marveled at how the landscape had changed in the last 20 years; from a dry, barren desert to a lush valley. The Great Green Wall of Africa, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Red Sea, was working. It stopped the Sahara Desert from creeping further south while creating cooling shade for vegetable gardens and small-scale farms.
To combat climate change and rising CO2 emissions, back in the early 20s, there were really only two options: Reduce carbon emissions by burning less fossil fuel, or find ways to capture CO2 from the atmosphere using carbon sinks. While Europe reeled from energy transition costs, China, known for grand scale infrastructure projects, installed enough green energy in 2023 to power the whole of France.
On the other side of the equation, it is estimated that since the industrial revolution, humans have cut down about one trillion trees, a third of Earth’s natural carbon sink and shade cover. At the same time, treelined city streets have between 10 – 20 degrees Celsius lower surface temperatures than those without trees. Urban greening not only cleans the air, it can save lives!
While the US invested millions in carbon capture technology, China planted trees; lots of trees! By 2023, they had replanted around 640,000 square kilometers of forests, an area the size of Spain and Greece combined, and were world leaders in desert sand control. By 2029 new ‘volunteer’ forests had grown to 77 million hectares, using genetically engineered symbiotic fungi to boost tree roots.
Back home in Niger, Iddi headed out to plant his daily quota of 10 trees and shrubs. With China’s biotech, they would soon be flourishing. Tonight, while his kids studied in the light generated by solar energy, he would enjoy sweet dates from his own palm trees.
Warning: Hazardous thinking at work
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