I’m ploughing through past issues of National Geographic Magazine, partly for research, partly for inspiration, and partly because my e-reader just doesn’t go with the setting I’m currently in (but these beloved, tattered yellow borders do).
Every once-in-a-while comes a story that just makes me ask myself is this all that I’m really doing (I don’t mean slouched in a hammock and reading – but writing about the things that I write)? You know the kind: risky, adventurous, arduous, but so enriching that just reading about it is never enough. It tickles, it stings, it nags you like a mosquito bite. And now I’m sitting with 11 opened tabs looking for more.
This piece was written by a two-time Pulitzer winning journalist, an environmental biologist by education, Paul Salopek. The feature is not about environmentalism at all, although there are section where he discusses and maps the changes in precipitation and vegetation in the Sahel (the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south) over the past few decades.
My favourite bits:
LOST IN THE SAHEL (April 2008): Along Africa’s harsh frontier between desert and forest, crossing some lines can be fatal
The road was not really a road. Its two ruts led into Darfur, to the war in western Sudan, from the unmarked border of Chad. So much of the Sahel was like this—unmapped, invisible, yet a boundary nonetheless. We were crossing boundaries with every passing hour, mostly without seeing them.
The Sahel itself is a line.