Climate Change Puts the Reality in This TV Show


The Sahara is advancing southward by five square kilometers a year, burying productive land under sand dunes. Photo by Celso Flores via Flickr.

At first it sounds like any other reality show: "Candidates will be put through a series of tough physical and mental endurance exercises, extreme driving tests, and group tasks measuring their ability to bond with their team-mates in pressurized situations." But this group of "Desert Warriors" won't just be squabbling, scheming, and showing off -- they'll be helping Nigeria's most famous environmentalist spread the word about global warming and desertification.For the show, Newton Jibunoh, a well-known explorer and the founder of the NGO Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE), will select 15 young traveling companions from an initial group of 50 to trek across the Sahara desert with him in a reality TV show that will be broadcast in Nigeria and neighboring Niger.

Desertification Worsening in the Sahara
"After more than 40 years spent traveling the world explaining the dangers posed by global warming, and in particular the worsening problem of desertification in the Sahara region, Mr. Jibunoh says his greatest concern remains the lack of awareness among Africans of the gravity of the situation," the BBC reported.

"The problem in the past has been getting this message to the ordinary people who are most affected by this whole changing climate," Jibunoh told the BBC. "So we're trying to bring some entertainment into it. We're trying to bring some adventure into it. Endurance reality shows attract millions of viewers all over the sub-region, so we've found this to be the best instrument not just entertain, but to educate the populace about the dangers that lie ahead."

Planting Trees and Educating Youth
A soil engineer and a chief in his local government, Jibunoh, 71, has made two solo expeditions across the world's largest desert. On these treks, he observed the southward advance of the Sahara and how the changing environmental conditions were having detrimental effects on local communities, leading him to start FADE in 2000. The organization works to halt the desertification that drives people from their homes, by planting trees -- especially those bearing fruit and other cash crops that communities can benefit from economically -- and successfully protesting their felling; educating young people about the environment; and working on small-scale irrigation projects.

"[Climate change is] a global concern. We can't point fingers and say we won't do anything, because there's only one planet and this is where we all live," Jibunoh said last year in an interview published on AllAfrica.com. "What happens in one part of the globe affects all other parts, so there's no escaping climate change no matter where we are."

More about desertification:
Could Bacteria-Filled Balloons Stop the Spread of the Sahara? Architect Magnus Larsson Thinks So
Australia Takes Lead on Combating Desertification
Good Growing Regions Drying Up in Turkey
China Being Submerged in Sand: Desertification Spreads 1300 Square Miles Per Year
Desert Engulfing Nouakchott in Mauritania
Rainmakers In The Desert
TerrAfrica: Combating Desertification

Tags: Africa | Desertification | Deserts | Developing Nations | Global Warming Effects | Niger | Nigeria | Television