American Politics

Why should a British person be so interested in US politics? Is it weird or shameful, like a Chelsea FC fan from Vladivostok? When I cannot name a German politician apart from Angela Merkel, why can I name, say, Brad Raffensperger? German politics affects me, now the mad Brexiters have reduced the UK to a powerless satellite of the EU, unable to control our own fisheries, with Northern Ireland, part of the kingdom, subject to laws made elsewhere and perhaps soon to be excised?

US politics affects me. There are still British troops in Afghanistan, suffering 454 deaths so far, who have caused many times more deaths. There were British troops in Iraq for eight years, with 179 deaths, causing many times more deaths. The total cost in Iraq was £9.24bn in 2010. The Trump administration defunding the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and reducing the climate data they collected makes action against climate change more difficult. Along with his other manoeuvres to prevent action against climate change, this makes the survival of human civilisation less likely.

There are US military bases in Britain. This is illegal, so they are, wholly fictionally, Royal Air Force bases. A single RAF lieutenant (pronounced leftenant) invites the Americans as his “guests”. Britain has nuclear missiles made and targeted in the US, hardly an “independent” deterrent. British politicians shamefully, oleaginously, whine about the “special relationship”.

The New York Times and The Atlantic, which I read, are mainly about the US, but their contents are relevant to me. There are QAnon and anti-maskers in Britain. What they say about social media informs my understanding of my own addiction to likes, and my understanding of how British, as well as American, people behave. Paul Krugman writes about the US economy, but about ways in which the Conservative government in Britain damage the British economy.

Then there is the purely American aspect: the interaction between Federal and State law and politics, the Electoral College, the law and politics around abortion. The technical issues Linda Greenhouse writes about, explaining the US Supreme Court in the NYT, are completely irrelevant to me, but the questions she writes about and the ways they are answered, such as the concept of “Originalism”, fascinate me. This is news as entertainment, for me, a story of how humans are outside my own experience, which enlarges my understanding of how humans can be. How do we solve problems? How do we disagree?

It becomes more personal for me, Zooming with Americans. I was aware of the murder in Charlottesville of Heather Heyer, but meeting and talking with someone from there makes it more real.

The more grotesque aspects of Donald Trump also form politics as entertainment. Trump says or does something disgusting or shocking, and I want to read about it just like rubbernecking a car crash. OMG what has he done/said now??? Demonstrators went to the airports to inveigh against the Muslim ban, and I was with them in spirit even though I could do nothing to advance their cause. I demonstrated against Trump when he came here. His machinations over the election was a fabulous drama.

I feel uncomfortable about these articles when it seems I am feeling other people’s feelings. Writers and publications are, rightly, disgusted or offended by Trump, and the articles communicate these feelings. It seems to me that feeling along with these feelings of contempt or anger, at an acceptable target, in an acceptable way to my community and my self-image, is addictive and cuts me off from my real feelings about situations more real and immediate to me. I want to understand the man, so read psychologists on his narcissism, and his 6 January speech to find how he gains the adulation and service of his crowds. I don’t want to be moved to outrage by every little thing he does. It’s not my outrage. It does me no good. And if Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to take over his role of owning the libs by shocking us, I have no wish to play along.

Finally, there is so much to inspire in the US. It may be the greatest country in the world.

TERFs off duty

Who are the anti-trans campaigners? What are they like, when not posting exclusion and dehumanisation? On facebook, I could just trade the usual lines with them, but instead I clicked on their profiles. I am not doxxing- kudos to anyone who finds the source of the pseudonyms I give them. The Green Party of England and Wales shared a simple meme, “Trans rights are human rights” on a trans flag background, and the hate commenced.

Abigail is an actor, who lives in Brisbane. She shares tourist photos of her in Europe. She obsessively shares articles attacking trans rights: her two latest public shares are an attack on Joe Biden’s allyship, and a claim that autistic trans people are not really trans, both in the Times. She claimed that that meme alone would stop her voting Green.

Catharina lives in Portland, Oregon, US. She coined the term “album-ination” to mean a record which was unfairly trashed. She refers to trans women as “men who wear women’s clothes”, but “respects that plants are living beings”. She accused the GPEW of trying to silence women, and warned it would make those women more keen to shout their transphobic hate, though that’s not how she put it. Brisbane? Portland? The GPEW? They clearly trawl facebook for anything supporting trans rights, so they can join a pile-on.

Annestine is 63. She went to Beverley Girls High School, and studied at the University of Sheffield. She created an image to “celebrate Pride” by imposing a rainbow on a picture of poppies. She donated to animal-free research, and an animal rescue centre. She fearmongers about “male bodied people in changing rooms”.

Someone commented on the length of the thread. “It’s driven by a business model that incites rancour”- well, yes, because that drives engagement. He got 41 replies, including Eleanor’s comment about the “cotton ceiling”. Eleanor’s other obsession is Remaining: her profile pic says she’s “Still European”. She shared a photo of graffiti, saying “I dream of you in COLORS that dont exist” and a vile transphobe “joke” tweet. She crocheted a gorgeous, complex blanket.

Olympe called the GPEW post “woke nonsense”, and said people are leaving the Party because of this. She is a freelance classical singer and singing teacher, a member of Jewish Voices for Labour and anti-Zionist. She also supports Extinction Rebellion.

Ann lives in Tewkesbury. She shared a cartoon showing Covid as a tidal wave about to engulf Westminster, but dwarfed by Brexit, which was in turn dwarfed by climate change. I agree. She has photos of countryside, and sheep. Her other visible posts are hateful, mocking transphobe images, including one of a trans woman’s penis.

Madeleine likes Jeremy Corbyn and does not like NHS privatisation. However everything else visible on her profile is transphobe. She obsessively repeats the mantra “adult human female” as if it meant that trans women do not exist.

Dorothea shared the quote “Let this radicalise you rather than lead you to despair”. I love that quote, though I would hope pushback about trans rights would make her see sense. She is a young woman who supports Labour. She self-justifies by claiming trans exclusion is “asserting boundaries”.

Jane is a lesbian from Buenos Aires. She shares cute puppy photos marked “buenas”. She also shared a tweet from “Assigned angry at birth” claiming “lesbian is female same sex attraction”, as if the most important thing for lesbians was ending trans rights.

Sarah claims trans people “hate women”. She is from Seattle. She is “Anti-Q, wanted for thought crimes”. Her profile picture is the photo of Bernie Sanders in mittens.

When they’re not obsessively campaigning about trans, they “love to hear the little brook a’gurgling, and listen to the merry village chime”. I share fbfnds with some of the haters. If I could meet and talk to them, we would find things in common, maybe even like each other. They get into anti-trans campaigning from a desire to protect vulnerable groups, or to stand up for themselves, which I could admire if it were not perverted in this way. Coming from all over the world, they plot together to go on any public post saying positive things about trans rights, and flood it with hate.

Some pages are using that to get clicks. They post a simple pro-trans meme, the haters pour in, and their page gets more attention.

Joanna Cherry

Joanna Cherry is a transphobe, attempting to spread hate and fear against trans people, and particularly trans women.

She tweeted a photo of Pride-marchers, who have signs reading “Fuck TERFs” and “No more TERFs”, writing, “It makes me very sad. #Pride was never about #Hate. I marched on my first #Pride in London 30 years ago. It was diverse. Inclusive. This #misogyny is destroying our movement.” It was reported in indy100. Objecting to TERFs is not misogyny, because it is opposing harmful action: TERFs are identified by the harmful things they say and do. Continue reading

Trans in 1970

You know you are the opposite sex. You know this is mad, and shameful, and no-one must know. You think you are the only one. But brave people are making paths, and transition is becoming possible. Government and society are tolerant if contemptuous. You can be you.

The case of Corbett v Corbett or Ashley decided in England that a trans woman, even after an operation, could not marry a man, and that decision stood until the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which had certain insulting restrictions. However, it says something about what it was like to be trans in 1970, when it was decided.

It wasn’t easy. First, you had to hear that other people were like this too. In her teens April Ashley had attempted suicide and been admitted to mental hospital, where she said she wanted to be a woman. In 1956, aged 21, she went to the south of France where she met and joined a troupe of female impersonators from the Carousel club, Paris. She was taking oestrogen.

In 1961 April was working as a model, until this was reported in the press. In 1962, the News of the World published a series of articles about her, telling her life story in considerable detail. Reporting was exploitative, but it was out there. Jan Morris’ book Conundrum was published in 1974. I found it unreadable, too close to my experience, and it was written to explain us to educated cis people rather than to ourselves, but it was there.

In 1961, April changed her name by deed poll, and obtained a passport in her female name. “The Ministry of National Insurance issued her with a woman’s insurance card, and now treat her as a woman for national insurance purposes.” The doctors had arranged this for several patients. The rules were different, based on the idea that women would marry and become housewives. There was a widow’s benefit but no equivalent for widowers. So the rules were inappropriate if you could not marry, but the thing was done.

In court, her husband’s barrister badgered her over whether she had had erections or ejaculated. The judge, contemptuously, records, “She simply refused to answer either question and wept a little”.

A lawyer in Gibraltar succeeded in getting a special licence for her to marry. So the High Court in London scotched that idea, but some officials would have given it a go.

There was a surgeon, Georges Burou, in Casablanca, who would perform the operation, and April had it in 1960. There were specialists in London who recommended it: Dr JB Randell, at the Charing Cross gender clinic, which had started in 1966, had recommended 35 patients for surgery. Patients had to sign a consent form saying “I understand it will not alter my male sex and that it is being done to prevent deterioration in my mental health”.

Arthur Corbett pressed her to marry, though she knew this was a mistake. Arthur was unhappily married, and had cross-dressed from 1948. They rarely dressed, saying “I didn’t like what I saw. You want the fantasy to appear right. It utterly failed to appear right in my eyes.” A man who had had an amputation told me those turned on by this didn’t last, as they wanted the amputation themselves. So Arthur pressed her to marry, but though April had had sex with others, Arthur could not go through with it. “On several occasions he succeeded in penetrating her fully, but immediately gave up, saying ’I can’t, I can’t’ and withdrew without ejaculation, and burst into tears.” She left Arthur, saying the years since they met had been the worst of her life.

I am not using pronouns for Arthur. I am pretty sure she was trans, and born fifty years later would have transitioned. She felt that, looking like she did, it would have been impossible. While the judge, and probably the psychiatrists, made a rigorous distinction then between “transsexuals” and “transvestites”, the difference is what you see as possible, rather than your true nature.

Lawyers soon began arguing that the Sex Discrimination Act 1970 made it illegal to discriminate against transsexuals.

Transition was even harder than now, but there were pathways, and official recognition, and exceptionally courageous individuals could do it, and make a life.

Some thoughts on Truth

If my beliefs are the opposite of what they once were, have I ever been truthful? Realising how untruthful I am, I worked out my main reasons for lying. The first was, I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. Now, I lie to myself if the truth is too uncomfortable. Many people do: one of the BYM Queries is “What unpalatable truths might you be evading?” At some level, I know the truth that I deny- call it conscience or God- so avoidance involves shutting down perception. Evading the truth takes effort.

If “the truth shall set you free” it is free from ego-imaginings that I am who I imagine I ought to be. That denial of reality is a great deal of effort for no benefit. I don’t fool anyone else; so I expend all that effort to fool myself, in order to make me feel safer. Except it doesn’t really. So I am confused and hurting, wanting to be what I am not, until I accept who I am. I want the world to be other than it is, but you have to accept it before you can change it.

My parents were as queer as I am. The most important thing in my family was to appear normal, which meant hiding away. I had to appear to be a man, and lied to myself, as well as the world. This was intensely damaging. My work now is to recover, and truth is my tool: I seek it out and cling to it, as if drowning.

My inner critic, or inner persecutor, tells me that all my motivations are cowardly and self-serving in the most ridiculous, self-defeating, short termist way. That inner voice does not know or cannot admit the truth. It also tells me that things should be easy, so I am surprised and angry when they take time or effort.

In some circumstances, I would lie, for my own gain, to deceive others. This bothers me more in the sense of “will I get caught” rather than the pangs of my conscience telling me I do wrong.

People whom I value, whose judgment I respect, think I am an appalling person. I think they are wrong. Another friend tells me I am particularly truthful, and I am grateful. Possibly I am: when someone does not think she has a particular good moral characteristic and wants it, she works particularly hard at it.

I am a critical realist: I believe there is a real world, but it is too complex to know. Humans might see some aspect of truth. A community which accepts difference will know the truth better than any individual, but too often to fit in to their community people have to accept the community’s common view.

Psychological research observes that trans people rearrange our life story and our understanding of ourselves to convince ourselves that we are “really” trans. I simply know that transition is what I want more than anything else in the world, and I did it despite the difficulties it causes me, so I must be trans.

I know trans is a wrong way to be, I should not be like this. This is called “internalised transphobia”. It is one of my deepest truths. I also know that is false, which seems like a more intellectual knowing.

“Why did you do that?” is an impossible question. Humans rationalise motives. Many things motivate us, some seeming more reasonable or acceptable than others: to others or to ourselves, so I might not know my motivation. If things pop out of my mouth which I immediately regret, this is because I am more complex than I understand. And, I can come together and speak from my integrity, a truth that I know. It feels like ministry.

A lawyer recognises that there is only evidence, which includes what people say; that “proof” is in the mind of the judge of fact, who does not know absolutely either; that there are opposing, contradictory views; that people see the same event differently; that some people lie for gain, as I just said I would.

Being able to live with not knowing is a great blessing. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.

Blake was right: “Everything that is, is holy”. You see things more clearly if you see them with respect, worship or love. The attention necessary for this is hard work, impossible if you spend your energy lying to yourself.

This iconic painting is out of copyright. How thin the people are!

The heron

I love moonlight on snow. I want to find a reason for that- something in evolutionary psychology, some association- but just do. The skies were forecast to clear just after midnight on Sunday night, and the snow forecast to melt in 3°C weather (it hasn’t yet) so I went out to enjoy it, and perhaps photograph it. A friend feared I might be assaulted, but there was no-one about. It’s magical. The moon is waxing gibbous, 83%, high in the sky, Orion is just below it to the left, and I can see for miles. The lights of the town shine across the valley.

and- that’s it. How much of what I see is phenomenological- my associations, my joy- how much the actual light captured by my eyes, what is the difference between light in eyes and in camera, what is association with the photographic image, I don’t know, but the photo does not capture the experience.

I can take a picture of snow on bushes at night, and, well, that’s it. Or a snowman, you can see what it is, I can’t make the light beautiful.

By day, though, the light is so bright that snow on bushes can be lovely, even in the image. I don’t want to photograph just the landscape, I need birds doing something interesting to make a photo.

There they are.

I waited on the bridge for a while, to see if they would circle round again, but they did not. But, someone tells me these are heron tracks.

That’s not really a good stream for the heron to hunt. The lake has flooded over the path, so this is the way people go.

I did not want to make it fly, as flying uses food up, but, well, this is the path where the people go and will disturb it. I could approach quite close, but when I pointed my camera it knew I was paying it attention, and no creature likes that.

In the light, the sheds are pretty.

TERFs on display

When trans-excluders write for a general audience, what do they write? In their bubbles, there is no downside for being more and more extreme, but when they interact with people who do not share their peculiar obsession, they might put them off. Do they care?

Tracey, a transphobe, objected to the use of the word “cis” on a facebook group which still has trans members. Someone asked what the problem was, and someone else said “you must respect the right of others to use” the word. So far, so reasonable. Tracey wrote,

cis is a word that’s been foisted upon women to distinguish adult human females from transwomen. It has the impact and effect of making women a sub category of our own sex class. It is made-up nonsense that is supposed to mean people like me – women – have a ‘gender identity’ which matches the ‘gender’ we were ‘assigned at birth’. Well, like each and every one of us, my sex was observed and recorded at birth, not ‘assigned on a whim, and as I don’t have a gender identity I don’t see how I can be happy that something I don’t have matches something I wasn’t assigned in the first place. I’m a woman, not a subset of female. These words matter because they change perceptions of who we are.

That is, very quickly she went full extremist. Her gender was assigned at birth when she was given a pink Babygro and adults started talking to her differently. Hannah says “cis” is ordinary language, and got abused as “science denying Trump like folk”.

Alison says, “If I hear somebody talking about the different experiences of black women and white women, I don’t have a crisis because I’ve become a ‘subset’!” Unfortunately she is piled on, with many responses.

Cassie says, “I am an adult human female. And gender is not assigned at birth either.” Sigh. I would far rather be referred to as a “woman” than “adult human female”, but she gets 32 Likes. Indigo gets 42 Likes for saying “women’s fundamental rights are being undermined yet again”.

Rita, who is Bi, says “Why are so many straight CIS people so up themselves?” Kim, a phobe, scores a point by asking “You accept, therefore, that trans activists don’t have the right to tell other people to define themselves as “cis”?” That needs answered. Some people, formerly, objected to being called “straight”. They might prefer “normal”. It is the same way of marginalising trans as was used against gay people.

Geoff, in his late fifties, says “Just mentioning the word ‘gay’ was a nightmare when I was a kid”. He gets piled on- language is used against women, “trans is a belief, like religion, tagging themselves onto the end of LGB”. One tries to appear reasonable- “I have non binary and gender fluid friends”- not realising the echoes that raises.

For Kim, we are “heterosexual men claiming to be lesbians”. She refers to a trans rapist who was imprisoned for fifteen years. For Fiona, alleging that a trans woman is a woman is the same as asserting that the Earth is flat- objectively false. That was part of a pile-on: one sane comment, with five people making ten comments shouting it down. I observed that “science recognises the existence of trans women, in all cultures over millennia”, and had a smaller pile-on, with phobes liking each others’ comments.

The males who want to identify as women Are so domineering in their insistence..That all people have to agree with them..This behaviour is very Male -Testosterone driven…
This is why many women do not want them in women safe spaces..

There’s the hate. We don’t matter. “I wish Trans women all the best” does not make a difference. But, do people who don’t care particularly see the hate in that comment?

Saira said, “So-called ‘T*RFs’ don’t really help themselves by being as rigid as the more extreme end of Transactivist… we need to find a way to live with both options being valid”. She says TERF is a “slur”, she’s trying to find common ground, but that does not prevent a pile-on.

What do they write? They write the same tedious drivel, the same swivel-eyed obsessions, that they write when they are alone. I just wish there was more sign they put others off.

Trans aged 18

Is there a specific attack on trans rights for young adults? After the disastrous case of Bell v Tavistock, restricting puberty blockers for 16 year olds, is there a move to reduce treatment for older teenagers? How might such a campaign work? A lot depends on what “adolescent” means.

Aged 18, ideally, you have a strong relationship with your parents, and anti-trans campaigners make much of the fact that brain maturation continues until age 24.

The UN formally defines adolescent as aged 10 to 19. This Lancet article says “understanding of continued growth has lifted [the] endpoint age [of adolescence] well into the 20s”. A lawyer might want a precise definition. A doctor would consider the good of the actual patient. A gender psychiatrist should balance the potential harm of changing sex characteristics where a patient might revert against the harm of delaying a trans person’s transition.

The NHS has changed the name to Children and Young People’s mental health services, from Children and adolescent mental health services. Most patients “transition” to adult services aged 18, but some do at 16 and there may be some flexibility. This means it is usual in Britain to treat an 18 year old as an adult.

WPATH does not provide a definition of adolescent, but the WPATH standards of care state that adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria are far less likely than children to detransition. Many adolescents do not report a history of childhood gender nonconforming behaviour, so parents may be surprised.

On the assessment of adolescents, WPATH says,

Assessment of gender dysphoria and mental health should explore the nature and characteristics of a child’s or adolescent’s gender identity. A psychodiagnostic and psychiatric assessment – covering the areas of emotional functioning, peer and other social relationships, and intellectual functioning/school achievement – should be performed. Assessment should include an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of family functioning.

The change from fully reversible interventions, including puberty blockers, to partially reversible interventions, including cross sex hormones, should not occur until adolescents and their parents have assimilated fully the effects of earlier interventions.

Testosterone makes the voice deepen. Oestrogen causes gynaecomastia.

The Mail had an article which is little more than “anti-trans campaigners say trans is bad”. GenderCare, operated by Dr Stuart Lorimer, who also sees NHS patients, was allegedly prescribing cross sex hormones to 18 year olds after one consultation. The Mail says,

There is no suggestion that Dr Lorimer or GenderCare, which sees individuals from the age of 18 and charges up to £300 per appointment, have contravened any medical guidelines. But parents and campaigners are concerned by the speed at which drugs that can have serious health risks, including blood clots, strokes and infertility, are being prescribed to potentially vulnerable young people.

A stroke would be a severe consequence, which is unlikely.

The Mail produces two parents who say their 18 year old offspring had a hormone prescription after one consultation, and a group of parents hostile to transition whose spokesperson says treatment for people in their early twenties is unsafe. It’s not news. It could indicate that after Keira Bell there is an attempt to roll back treatment for older people, even up to 25.

A campaign to limit treatment for 18-25 year olds has no potential loss for the anti-trans campaigners. The more such views are expressed, the more people might think they seem reasonable. However to succeed, it needs to overcome profound barriers. The main one is the NHS definition of adult, as a person over 18.

Could a doctor prescribing hormones to an 18 year old presenting as trans be liable for damages in court? The legal test is in Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee. A practice accepted at the time as proper by a responsible body of medical opinion skilled in the particular form of treatment in question was not negligent merely because there was a body of competent professional opinion which might adopt a different technique.

That is, the very existence of WPATH is enough to protect doctors following their standards from negligence claims. There are prodigious, well-funded attempts to chip away this protection, and the Bell case advances them, but for the moment there can be no particular attack on 18-25 year olds’ treatment.

The other possible attack is on professional competence through the General Medical Council. Doctors must:

  • Work in partnership with patients.
  • Listen to, and respond to, their concerns and preferences.
  • Give patients the information they want or need in a way they can understand.
  • Respect patients’ right to reach decisions with you about their treatment and care.
  • Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health.

In providing clinical care doctors must:
a) prescribe drugs or treatment, including repeat prescriptions, only when you have adequate knowledge of the patient’s health, and are satisfied that the drugs or treatment serve the patient’s needs.
b) provide effective treatments based on the best available evidence

Again, there are significant difficulties in making an ethical case against doctors prescribing cross sex hormones, and arguably no particular case, yet, referring to 18-25 year olds.

Could NHS funding be withdrawn? Local commissioners make their decisions on what to offer patients, based on medical need not Daily Mail campaigns. This would be an attack on all adult gender services, not specifically 18-25. Even Liz Truss was talking about increasing provision of gender clinics, though that turned out to be a re-announcement of new clinics previously announced.

There will be increasing noise about gender services for adults in their twenties. It is unlikely to have an effect on the treatment specifically of 18-25 year olds.

The Great Green Wall

The Great Green Wall is a plan to hold back the expansion of the Sahara with an 8000 km natural wonder of the world across the width of Africa. It would be the largest living structure on the planet.

In Burkina Faso, a landlocked country between Mali and Ghana, a hot dry wind from the Sahara blows. The north of the country is in the Sahel, the borderland of the Sahara. Its temperatures range up to 47°C and it gets less than 600mm of rainfall a year. There, Ecosia, the eco-friendly search engine, has planted nearly 17m trees over 12,400 hectares.

Chad has planted 1.1m seedlings, and its nickname “the dead heart of Africa” could be made obsolete. Africa’s second largest wetland, 17,806 square km Lake Chad, was once 330,000 square km in the Chad Basin, which does not drain to the sea. Increasing water shortages contribute to the rise of Boko Haram in the region. Part of it is Sahel acacia savannah, which once supported vast migrating herds of grazing mammals.

Mauritania was part of the original Panafrican Agency of the Great Green Wall in 2007. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification proposed 1.65 million hectares of forest there. In January 2021 its president, Mohamed Cheikh El-Ghazouani, who is the chair of PAGGW, welcomed the UN’s Accelerator programme, a new $14bn scheme. It is estimated that $33bn investment is needed to complete the wall.

Though 80% or more of planted trees in the Sahara die, in Niger, farmers used water harvesting techniques to protect trees that seeded naturally on their farms. Rather than planting a forest on the edge of a desert, the project transformed to develop indigenous land use techniques. Hundreds of thousands of farmers made the land productive for food and fuel for 3m people. French imperialism had imposed French techniques, to clear land for agriculture and keep crops separate from trees, damaging the ecology. The trees improve the soil. Twelve million acres in Niger were restored for farming.

South Sudan is south of the area of the Wall, which passes through Sudan. In South Sudan, the breakdown of agriculture foments conflict. It is covered in tropical forest, swamps and grassland, 3° north of the Equator.

Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco after liberation from Spanish rule in 1975. It has no permanent streams, and in summer reaches 45°C. Yet its north-west, with the temperature moderated by the Atlantic Ocean, has Acacia dry woodlands and succulent thickets.

Global Citizen gives a good introduction. The wall aims to

• improve soil quality for farmers, which would allow crops to better withstand hostile conditions;
• create wildlife corridors that revitalize ecosystems and become hubs of tourism;
• restore sources of water to combat drought;
• generate millions of green economy jobs;
• establish a carbon sink to fight climate change;
• break the vicious cycles of migration that are draining societies of youth;
• boost economies;
• and ease the conditions that lead to violence.

Kew Gardens are involved in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, planting one million seedlings over four years, collecting and storing species and investigating which survive best.

Here is the project website.