How hundreds of small ‘Gardens of Eden’ guard against total deforestation in Ethiopia

‘The church is within the forest, the forest is inside the church.’

Ethiopia’s northern highlands were once covered by trees. But over the past century, development and exponential population growth have all but wiped out the region’s forests, transforming the landscape into an expanse of brown fields, given over to cattle grazing and agriculture. However, an aerial view of the region reveals small pockets of green with round buildings in the middle, dotting the barren expanses. Born of the centuries-old belief of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church that churches should be surrounded by forests so as to resemble the Garden of Eden, these sites have become valuable sanctuaries of biodiversity amid the extreme pressures of population growth. The Church Forests of Ethiopia explores how the Ethiopian ecologist Alemayehu Wassie is partnering with church leaders in a last stand against deforestation – an inspiring and uncommon partnership between science and religion. You can read more about the project at Emergence Magazine.

Director: Jeremy Seifert

Producer: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Websites: Emergence Magazine, GO Project Films

View at aeon.co

Support Aeon

‘I am a friend of Aeon because I value freedom ... freely provided, intelligently presented information liberates us all.’

Roland M, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Essay/Astronomy

Contact

An alien-made artefact or just interstellar debris? What ʻOumuamua says about how science works when data is scarce

Matthew Bothwell

Video/History of ideas

The devils you know – how Satan became a versatile stand-in for all manner of evil

5 minutes

Idea/Computing and artificial intelligence

Algorithms associating appearance and criminality have a dark past

Catherine Stinson

Essay/Anthropology

How equality slipped away

For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?

Kim Sterelny

Video/Human rights and justice

How did the NRA transform from a sporting group to a mighty political force?

10 minutes

Idea/Medicine

Gentle medicine could radically transform medical practice

Jacob Stegenga