The current issue of NewScientist has a fascinating interview with Chris Reij, who studies natural resource management in Africa. (Sorry, the site is subscription-only.) In Niger, he’s seeing farmers fight the desertification brought on by climate change–and the creeping Sahara–with the most low-tech of solutions: They’re allowing trees to grow up on their land.
They’re defying the rules of modern agriculture, which demand treeless fields, and also bad policy that has long made trees government property, giving the farmers every incentive to chop them down and sell them for firewood. And since the trees provide food for their livestock, they’ve now got a manure source to improve the soil and make it that much less likely to dry up and blow away.
This story makes me think that Mother Nature is amazingly cooperative, and it takes a really towering arrogance to screw up a relationship with her.