Between Us and Extinction

Richard (Rick) Mills
Ahead of the Herd

Page 1 of 2

As a general rule, the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information

 

Desertification is a phenomenon that ranks among the greatest environmental challenges of our time, unfortunately most people haven't heard of it or simply don’t understand it.

 

Desertification and land degradation is a global issue with desertification already affecting one quarter of the total land surface of the globe today

 

Today the pace of arable land degradation is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate. Land degradation is costing US$490 billion per annum and desertification is degrading more than 12m hectares of arable land every year - the equivalent of losing the total arable area of France every 18 months.

 

One third of the earth’s surface is covered with grasslands that are facing the threat of desertification. According to a study by the United Nations, 20 percent of our farmland, 30 percent of our forest and 10 percent of world’s grassland are degrading worldwide. Over the past four decades, 15 percent of the Earth's land area - an area larger than the United States and Mexico combined - have been degraded through human activities.

 

Severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world, up from just a 110 a few short years ago.

 

Desertification doesn’t refer to the advance of deserts which can and do expand naturally. Desertification is a different process where land in arid or semi-dry areas becomes degraded - the soil loses its productivity and the cover vegetation disappears or is degraded to the point where wind and water erosion can carry away the topsoil leaving behind a highly infertile mix of dust and sand.

 

Land degradation, and the eventual resulting desertification of dry land ecosystems is most often caused by human activities such as:

  • Unsustainable farming - intensive farming depletes the nutrients in the soil
  • Overgrazing - animals eat away grasses and erode topsoil with their hooves
  • Deforestation or clear-cutting of land - the tree and plant cover that binds the soil is removed
  • Misuse of water resources
  • Industrial activities

Climate change can accelerate and intensify the degradation process.

 

 


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