Growing a green forest in the desert

Posted by Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling

Deserts are stark environments where extreme heat, cold, and lack of moisture mean only the hardiest of species can survive there.

For centuries, deserts have been little more than wastelands, home only to the most well-adapted plants, animals, and a few humans. Greening the desert seems like an oxymoron, but an ambitious international project is making it reality.

The Sahara Forest Project is a new environmental solution to create re-vegetation and green jobs through profitable production of food, water, clean electricity and biomass in desert areas. Supported by the UN, a pilot facility has been established in Qatar. Now, a documentary about the people and progress of the Sahara Forest Project is in the making, and gathering funds on Kickstarter.

The Sahara Forest Project proposes to use restorative practices to establish vegetation in arid areas and reverse the trend of desertification. This process of restorative growth will be catalyzed by combining already existing and proven environmental technologies, such as the evaporation of saltwater to create cooling and distilled fresh water (i.e. in a saltwater cooled greenhouse) and solar thermal energy technologies. The combination of technologies in the Sahara Forest Project is designed to utilize what we have enough of to produce what we need more of, using deserts, saltwater and CO2 to produce food, freshwater and energy.

For more than a year, the Copenhagen Film Company has followed the Sahara Forest Project, witnessing the building of a pilot facility in Qatar, the presentation at the UN Climate Negotiations in Doha and the preparations for further development.

But is this just wishful thinking?

Is it even possible to turn the desert green and grow food in the driest regions of the world? Can you turn seawater into fresh water while at the same time create renewable energy by means of the sun? And will it be possible to get this project to market and into society so that the whole world might benefit from this technology?

To answer these questions the film crew plan to keep on documenting the Sahara Forest Project for at least another year.

In order to raise money for an additional year of filming, the documentary project has launched at Kickstarter, a crowd funding platform for creative projects.

Learn more about this fascinating endeavor to green the deserts at www.saharaforestproject.com.

* Beth Buczynski, EarthTechling