Podcast explores how responsible dredging might regreen deserts

The Sinai desert at sunset.

A project to restore and ‘regreen’ Egypt’s Sinai desert provided the focus for a recent episode of the podcast series Rewilding the World, produced by conservationist Ben Goldsmith. He interviewed Ties van der Hoeven, Creative Director of The Weather Makers, about a project of this kind.

In its Sinai Regeneration project, the group is seeking to restore the lush forests and river networks which once existed in the area, through various water harvesting initiatives.

Van der Hoeven describes how the Sinai desert once contained a lush lagoon – protected by mountains – which supplied the surrounding area with water, but that thousands of years of erosion and deforestation has destroyed this water source, leaving Sinai nearly desertified.

In the episode, Goldsmith and van der Hoeven discuss the immense challenges involved with this restoration work in the Sinai desert – which they describe as one of the world’s starkest examples of ecosystem collapse.

And they discuss other restoration projects which inspired this one, including the restoration of China’s Loess Plateau, an ecosystem which faced similar damage to the Sinai Peninsula.

One regeneration tool championed by van der Hoeven is that of responsible dredging, where nutrient-rich sediment is brought up from river and ocean floors to enrich the surrounding land.

Ties van der Hoeven says: “[engineering] can be very destructive, but if you change the purpose, it can become a very big, powerful tool to upscale regeneration projects.”

Ben Goldsmith says: “The Sinai Peninsula is an example of about as much ecological desecration as can be imagined […] If we can restore it based on ideas brought from the dredging industry and other ecological restoration projects around the world, then really we can restore anywhere.”

The limited podcast series Rewilding the World features six episodes in total. The podcast was produced by The Podcast Coach and can be heard on Spotify, Apple and on the web.

The series also follows the launch of Goldsmith’s new book, God is an Octopus, which reflects on his grief after losing his teenage daughter, Iris, in a tragic accident and the solace nature offered him.

Ben has also recently launched The Iris Prize, named after his late daughter, which is seeking to reward outstanding young people who are working on projects to restore nature around the world.