Sunday, February 11, 2007


We live in extremely depressing environmental times. Climate change, resource depletion, species decline, overpopulation, etc., etc. But we don't have to hasten the world to environmental collapse. Small lifestyle changes by people can transform local environments and bring them back to health in a surprisingly short amount of time.

This article about reforestation in Niger is a cheering story about what local people can do without outside prodding. In fact, this story shows that top-down government-mandated plans can often hurt more than help. These farmers began planting trees in the 1970s when the Sahel winds and drought were carrying off their topsoil. They continue to plant today and have created a significantly improved environment in the fragile Sahel, despite massive population growth. These kind of programs have popped up around the world in the last decades. Gaviotas in Colombia is another excellent example.

When people see environmental protection as in their self-interest, they can come up with innovative solutions to difficult problems. When they take ownership of their surroundings, they can become its fiercest protectors. This is a wonderful tale that can be replicated in one form or another around the world.