Desertification

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Desertification is the process by which land degradation in arid and sub-humid areas occur around the world. It is caused by climate changing systems such as drought and wildfires to various human activities such as deforestation and agriculture. Ultimately, desertification is caused by the complex interactions between physical, biological, social, cultural, and economic factors in many countries across the globe.[1] The U.S. State of California has been subject to a substantial loss of habitable land due to excessive farming and its drought situation paving way to a desertified state. Worldwide, 12 hectares of land are lost per year due to desertification, making those areas uninhabitable. Nations around the world are attempting to combat the desertification phenomenon with global initiatives planned - namely through the United Nations - to slow the ever-worsening land degradation process.

Causes

Desertification is a global issue with a variety of causes that range from numerous factors. Broadly, these include social, political, economic, and natural factors which can vary on the country’s policies that lead to an unsustainable use of resources and agricultural uses – both of which are major root causes of the phenomenon. More specific factors that cause deteriorating lands are due to conversion, overuse, deforestation and poor irrigation methods. Studies have shown that economic reforms and trade liberalization also promote desertification, historically in dry areas. A variety of livelihoods on the land lead to harsh conditions such as hunting, gathering, farming, as well as herding, accelerating overall growth. [1]

Impacts

Farmland affected by desertification in California as of September 2015; from Capital Public Radio

Desertification impacts the Earth and its inhabitants in many drastic ways that normally aren’t thought about as we’re so used to “normalcy”. In California, droughts are affecting millions of people as well as wildlife, which will eventually lead to the harsher climate changes and ultimately desertification unless something is changed. California is one of the largest sources of agriculture in the U.S., and while it is important to us, the agriculture humans partake in as a whole is one of the largest causes of desertification worldwide, not just in California. Drought-stricken California has led to water rationing while farmers and other businesses are using a much larger portion of the water supply. Experts predict the water supply will be stripped from the state by 2040 if current usage levels continue. Ultimately, the lack of water will make California inhabitable due to its desertified climate and lack of change in people’s lifestyles. While inhabitable land is a large issue, it’s not the only impact.[2].

Eroded land in California leading to desertification; from UNESCO

Country initiatives

Desertification impacts the Earth and its inhabitants in many drastic ways that normally aren’t thought about as we’re so used to “normalcy”. In California, droughts are affecting millions of people as well as wildlife, which will eventually lead to the harsher climate changes and ultimately desertification unless something is changed. California is one of the largest sources of agriculture in the U.S., and while it is important to us, the agriculture humans partake in as a whole is one of the largest causes of desertification worldwide, not just in California. Drought-stricken California has led to water rationing while farmers and other businesses are using a much larger portion of the water supply. Experts predict the water supply will be stripped from the state by 2040 if current usage levels continue. Ultimately, the lack of water will make California inhabitable due to its desertified climate and lack of change in people’s lifestyles. While inhabitable land is a large issue, it’s not the only impact. [2]

Desertification caused by overgrazing in Argentina; from Encyclopedia of Earth

In countries like Nigeria, people are forced to leave their homes due to the arid climate and land changes desertification has caused. Trees are dying, which Nigeria is attempting to fix by planting new trees in 11 states in the country. The National Agency for the Great Green Wall was tasked with slowing down the desertification process and luckily has support from the government, unlike other countries [3] As stated above, desertification causes dry, arid climates anywhere the phenomenon exists, although areas are typically arid even before the process takes place. Because of dry areas, wildfires are much more prominent than ever before. States in the west, which are known to be dry namely due to drought, are drastically affected by this, as wildfires burn acres of land at a time and are both very difficult and very expensive to stop. These wildfires also cause soot and therefore, air quality issues, making it even harder for people that choose to stay to live in these areas. For these people, medical conditions are prominent such as asthma due to the lack of air quality caused by the wildfires, soot, and ultimately desertification caused from the aforementioned factors. [4]

United Nations' stance

The United Nations has been playing a very active role in slowing down desertification and its affects. While it’s very difficult - if not impossible - to bring it to a complete halt, many countries that are a part of the United Nations are taking the initiative to slow it down in their respective countries. Very recently, leaders from 192 countries around the world gathered in Turkey to discuss desertification during the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties, also known as COP12. The meeting is a part of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, or UNCCD [5] Because many humid areas as well as tropical islands are at risk of desertification, the issue is being taken seriously by most of the members, but there is still a large amount of work that needs to be done to combat it. Another meeting concerning Canada held by the UNCCD in Rio declared desertification as one of the most serious global challenges impeding development of all nations. Canada is of concern due to the Tar Sands expansion and pulled out of the UN convention a month before a major gathering took place [6] This expansion directly conflicts with desertification due to oil mining, rendering the area completely unlivable after sucking the land of all its contents dry.

See also

Other closely related articles in this wiki include:

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Hogan, M. (2013, June 14). Desertification. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151708/
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kaufman, D. (2015, April 13). California water crisis is a capitalist catastrophe - Liberation News [Online publication]. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from https://www.liberationnews.org/california-water-crisis-capitalist-catastrophe/
  3. Ikpefan, F. (2015, September 28). “70m affected by desertification, drought” - The Nation Nigeria. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://thenationonlineng.net/70m-affected-by-desertification-drought/.
  4. Lovett, I., & Medina, J. (2015, September 9). Fires in West Have Residents Gasping on the Soot Left Behind. The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/10/us/fires-in-west-leave-residents-gasping-on-the-soot-left-behind.html.
  5. Malicdem, D. (2015, October 15). UN warns human-induced activities turning Earth into wide “desert.” Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.ibtimes.com.au/un-warns-human-induced-activities-turning-earth-wide-desert-1474769.
  6. Romm, J. (2013, April 15). Canada Speeds Up Desertification With Tar Sands, Exits U.N. Convention Aimed At Addressing Problem. Think Progress. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/04/15/1854351/canada-speeds-up-desertification-with-tar-sands-exits-un-convention-aimed-at-addressing-problem

External links

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