Right now, around one-third of the Earth’s land surface is covered by desert. There is a region south of the Sahara desert called the Sahel meaning “edge of the desert.” It is a region that has a significant amount of desertification bringing three million people to become dependent on emergency food and leaving 250,000 dead. As our climate changes, Desertification is bound to reoccur around the globe leading to the forced migration of millions of people. From this, the question arises – How are regions going through desertification made liveable? Swedish architect Magnus Larsson found an interesting way to address the on-going threat of desertification happening throughout the world. Larsson proposes that by using a natural bacteria called Bacillus Pasteurii, it will harden areas of the sand dunes into sandstone.
By pouring Bacillus Pasturii onto a pile of sand, it fills the void space in between each grain and binds each grain together channeling the creation of a natural cement called calcite. The chemical process takes about a day or two for the sand to calcify. The possibilities of using this bacteria to create a structure within the dune are almost infinite. By pushing piles down through the dune, a bacterial surface can form. Afterward, pull the piles up through the dune. Through this process, comfortable spaces inside of the desert dune are made possible. Almost any shape inside of the sand can be created because the sand acts as a mold. After a couple of years, permacultural strategies are used to green the areas of the desert that have calcified. Many think that the bacteria would spread without control and kill everything in its way, but this is not true. The bacteria die as soon as they stop being fed.
In Larsson’s Ted Talk, he quotes Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian writer by saying, “nothing is built on stone, everything is built on sand, but we must build as if sand were stone.” With the realization in mind that his idea is stricken by real world challenges such as political, practical, ethical, and financial constraints, Borges hopes to push his vision further. He hopes that the initial plan will spark the minds of many around the world to come together and create a collaborative effort to revitalize and re-address the problem of desertification.