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Even the driest deserts can be regenerated. Here’s how! With Neal Spackman of the Al Baydha project: 141

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Even the Arabian desert can be regenerated, and here's how.png

I had the pleasure of catching up again with Neal Spackman, one of the primary designers and organizers of the Al Baydha project in Saudi Arabia.

The Al Baydha project began in 2009 with a long list of lofty ambitions. Among them they aimed to improve the local economy, act as a model for sustainable development in the Arabian Peninsula, reduce dependence on government handouts for the community, and store and harvest rainwater in the landscape through the restoration of the savannah ecosystem which had been desertified in only a few decades. This is the second interview I’ve done with Neal on his work in Saudi Arabia and this time around we got to go in even greater depth on the details and context of the project that informed the design and decision making process. If you’re interested in dryland and desert regeneration, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to the first episode, even though this one stands well on its own.

This time around, we revisit the history of the region and how government policies had major impacts on the lives of the nomadic bedouin people and in turn their relationship with the ecology of Al Baydha. Neal walks me through the planning and design process that preceded the work and how the cultural context of the project played a big role in setting the goals for a more sustainable economy for the area. We also dig into the biggest takeaways from 10 years of the largest desert regeneration attempt yet made in Saudi Arabia.

From there Neal even gets into his new projects and how his return to academia has informed a new approach to degraded land restoration as well as how farming can be leveraged as an ecological asset. Neal makes a lot of great recommendations toward the end for resources including books and videos that helped to inspire and inform these ambitious projects, so be sure to check out the resources section under this episode on the website.


More information in the Al Baydha Project from Wikipedia

Sustainable Design Masterclass YouTube channel

The Climate Analog Tool by Andrew Millison

Cradle to Cradle. Book link

The Negev: Challenges of a desert book

Natural Capitalism Book

Restoration Agriculture

Regenerative Agriculture

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  1. trana med svamp i underlivet on February 26, 2020

    Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I
    found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.
    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She
    never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but
    I had to tell someone!

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