Recycling, from tree stumps in Niger to cellphones in Austria

Two of our stories here are about giving new life to old things. But in Alabama, new technology made possible a find that brings fresh perspectives to ancient human civilization in North America.

1. Mexico

Sustainable forestry is replacing illegal crop production in Mexico’s Golden Triangle. The area is known as one of the country’s primary regions for marijuana and opium production, but some residents are working to transform that reputation. Four communities from the Tamazula Municipality in Durango joined together two decades ago to center sustainable forest management, long one piece of the region’s history, as an alternative, reliable livelihood.

Why We Wrote This

We’re used to getting rid of what is no longer useful. But in our progress roundup, we found farmers who stopped clearing the land to improve their crops and a country subsidizing repairs to keep electronics out of the trash.

The biggest challenge for business is transporting the wood long distances on dirt roads that trailers can’t navigate, which makes the journey expensive. Despite the obstacles, the communities now manage around 180 hectares (445 acres) of forest, producing 35,000 cubic meters (1.2 million cubic feet) of wood every year and providing a living for 1,000 families.

“The people who were previously producing drugs are now taking care of the forest,” said José Rojas, regional director of the Committee for the Economic Development of Durango. “Thanks to the forest, these people have roots in their communities, and they have a secure and sufficient family income with which we can break down inequality.”

2. United States

A discovery of the largest ancient cave art in North America is shedding new light on civilizations on the continent from A.D. 100 to 900. Etched deep within a limestone system in Alabama known nondescriptly as 19th Unnamed Cave to avoid detection and potential damage, the life-size masterpieces are too faint to view with the naked eye. Using 3D photogrammetry, a process that overlaps photographs to create 3D models, researchers uncovered over 5,000 square feet of ceiling designs in dark, damp passages just 2 feet high. Artists likely scraped the drawings into the mud by crouching or lying on the floor.


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