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Infinite Planet Salutes Matt Damon Efforts to Address the Scarcity of Water in the African Desert



— January 22, 2020

Infinite Planet Salutes Matt Damon Efforts to Address the Scarcity of Water in the African Desert

By Allan Richer

Running the Sahara isn’t an environmental film but a story about human endurance, exploration, and fortitude. An encounter with a lone 7 year-old boy in the Mali Desert demonstrates the value—and scarcity—of water in this part of the world. Infinite Planet salutes executive producer Matt Damon’s efforts in bringing endurance athletes Charlie Engle, Ray Zahab and Kevin Lin’s extraordinary journey to life in James Moll’s film.

This certainly qualifies Damon and his crew as outstanding environmentalists!

Infinite Planet, too, is dedicated to helping people as well as to preserving and protecting our planet’s ecology and diversity. Infinite Planet Daily Multi embodies the idea of a truly sustainable planet…by caring for the planet, for the animals and for the people.

Running the Sahara came about as endurance athletes Charlie Engle and Ray Zahab were running an Amazon marathon; they wondered what it would be like to run more than 4,000 miles across the brutal Sahara Desert. Two years later, in late 2006, Engle, Zahab and fellow endurance athlete Kevin Lin set out to traverse the Sahara across six North African countries on foot, an unprecedented challenge.

Along the way, the team adapts to the elements and the physical and political landscape while fighting their own better judgment and limitations. The suspense of finding out who runs the full distance—the goal is to bring at least one runner across the finish line—makes for gripping storytelling. Aided by spare narration from executive producer and Oscar-winner Matt Damon, Academy Award-winning director James Moll brings to life the runners, the stark backdrop and African culture with equal billing.

Water is only a supporting character, but an important one. In one of the film’s most moving moments, the runners encounter a 7-year-old boy alone in the Mali desert. With little more than the clothes he wears, the boy waits in the spot for days for his father’s return from a search for fresh water.

In contrast, the runners come upon the Ténéré oasis village in Agadez, Niger, at the Sahara’s geographical center. An African children’s choir provides an upbeat soundtrack behind children as they run through the village, but the oasis is overcrowded with nomads drawn to its life-giving liquid resource. Engle learned of the water crisis on a scouting trip to Agadez a year before the run. “This town shouldn’t have 50,000 people in it, and there were 500,000 people there,” Engle tells Energy Times. “That was a direct result of the nomadic people not having clean water or any water, frankly, in their home areas.”

In Running the Sahara, we learn that nomads value their freedom of movement so much that they believe houses, as Damon narrates, are “the graves of the living.”

The athletes’ grueling run begins by the Atlantic shores of Senegal in West Africa and ends in Eqypt’s Suez. Those bookends, Moll tells Energy Times, are a “poetic coincidence. Water ended up becoming such a strong theme in the film, but the fact is the intent was to run coast to coast. When the runners came across the small boy in the desert, it really began to resonate with them on an emotional level.”

From the runners’ encounter with the Sahara’s arid landscape sprang The H20 Africa Foundation, co-founded by Damon, Engle and others. The organization is bringing to the continent wells and the infrastructure for its people to maintain them.

Africa’s water crisis is killing many. But the runners’ feat turns the seemingly impossible into the plausible.

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