How Forests Act as Mega-Shields Against Tsunami

Here’s a front-of-book story I wrote for Wired earlier this year that was cross-posted on Wired UK. It’s about tsunami.

Bad news: All the X-Men-generated force fields in the world can’t prevent ’em. And draining the Pacific? What a hassle!

Good news: Akira Miyawaki, a tree-crazed professor closing in on 90 years old, promotes protective shields using certain super strong, deep-rooting trees. The natural wall could be a game-changer for Pacific Rim dweller Japan, one of Earth’s most quake-prone nations.

Since my story was published, Professor Miyawaki’s methods have been shown to trickle into the startup world. After Miyawaki worked with Toyota to plant a garden on their campus some years ago, he inspired Shubhendu Sharma, a TED Fellow and former industrial engineer at the car company, to quit the auto industry. Sharma launched Afforestt, an effort to standardize and increase forestation around the world.

“So far, we have planted 43,000 trees for 33 clients,” Sharma told TED. The for-profit company’s clients include farmers, corporations, and city governments.

Sharma volunteered with Miyawaki to study his sapling-sprouting methodologies. Miyawaki knows his stuff — he’s planted over 40 million trees worldwide. (I can barely keep the Walmart cactus on my windowsill alive.)

See Wired’s own story about Sharma: The Next Big Thing You Missed: How We Can Manufacture Forests Like Toyota Makes Cars