Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Word Desertification Day

Every June 17 is recognized as World Day to Combat Desertification by the United Nations. This year the day's theme was the linkages between climate change and desertification.

This past April, the UN's top scientific authority on global warming warned that higher global temperatures could significantly worsen desertification by changing rainfall patterns, melting glaciers and diminishing snow melt that the world's major rivers depend upon.

China, one of the world's worst hit countries, has seen thousands of Chinese villages disappear before its expanding deserts. The problem has been made worse by the legacy of Mao's Great Leap Forward, which sought to make China a self sufficient food producer by bringing marginal lands under cultivation. However, overuse of the land and over dependence on well water for irrigation have turned the land into desert. Duststorms from the ruined land cloud skies in South Korea and Japan and have even been linked to respiratory problems in California.

To try to control the problem, the Chinese are spending billions of dollars planting trees, moving farmers off of marginal land, and enforcing logging and grazing bans.

Even regions without advancing deserts are vulnerable. About 40 percent of the world's cultivated surface is considered drylands, where low rainfall and high evaporation make the land vulnerable to climate change. Even countries not typically known for their deserts, such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile are vulnerable to degredation of their drylands due to overuse aggrevated by climate change.

The U.S. is not immune either. Much of the West has experienced nearly a decade of drought conditions, including some of the states experiencing the fastest population growth. The water system in the U.S. Southwest is "on a slippery slope toward breaking point," according to climatologist Mark Svoboda of the U.S. National Drought Mitigation Center.

Only significant changes in water use will prevent a major catastrophe. The age of extravagance is over; the era of limits is upon us.


At 6:45 PM, Blogger Anjan said...

Yes, its true that desertification is a huge problem worldwide, nowhere so as in China where the desert frontier is expanding at 3 miles per year, swallowing villages and destroying agriculture. Thankfully, the Chinese goverment is devoting a lot of attention to this issue.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Luis said...

I know at least one solution for desertification (though it will only be good for your near local environment): It is consist in making water part of our daily life. When we work with it, we see and learn how it works, and then we use it for plants, taking the earth's thirst away, and making a "water culture" that used to be a part of our civilization not so long ago. Doing so with joy does fight desertification so efficiently you can see it with your eyes.
Let's fight desertification with means that are at our hand. World desertification is directly related to culture and people's everyday living manners. We urgently need to regard our XXI century water culture with huge attention.

At 4:24 AM, Blogger fedrik said...


i amm currently researching a product called TerraCottem (see and especially by its inventer).
It cuts down water use with more than 50% and virtually garantuess taht planted trees and crops survive dry streaks (I was in Burkina Faso and verified: it seems to be true)...
But is there a no-no somewhere in there?

F. Belgium


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