This shot from Google Earth shows an Ethiopian "Church Forest"—one of the symbolic reconstructions of the Garden of Eden that surround most Christian churches in the Northern part of the country. In fact, these sacred forests make up a large chunk of the tiny remnant of natural woodland left in Ethiopia. As a result, Church Forests have started to attract attention as pockets of biodiversity, as well as cultural curiosities. A fascinating guest post on the PLoS blog network puts the history, ecology, and culture surrounding these forests into context. Key lesson: If natural forests are going to survive in Ethiopia, then the Ethiopian people need better ways to grow more food on less land.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.