Land Degradation Endangers Quarter of World Population
photo Josh Sommers @ Flickr
Land degradation is the decline in soil, water, and vegetation quality - the very things we depend on for life. For the first time scientists have used satellite pictures and GIS software to assess the degradation of land over the entire Earth. They found that from 1981-2003, 24% of the globes land surface has been degraded, often in productive areas.
Land Management To What End?
"Degradation is primarily driven by land management and catastrophic natural phenomena." said Dr. David Dent, one of the authors.
The management of land is a controversial issue tied deeply in our spiritual, social, economic, and ecological history, present, and future. We have seen that agricultural land is degrading faster than expected. We have begun to sense the damage of soil erosion. We have seen innovative solutions to combat land degradation, from introducing small farms, permaculture, and biochar and many more. Yet for the most part our land management practices can be said to be on the same scale as a natural catastrophe. Something has to change.
"Overall, a quarter of the world's population depends directly on these degrading areas. The worst-hit areas are Africa south of the Equator, SE Asia and S China. The worst-affected countries, with more than 50 per cent of territory degrading are, in Africa, the Congo, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sierra Leone, Zambia and the most affected (95 per cent degrading) Swaziland; in Asia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Korea and Indonesia. In terms of the rural population affected, the greatest numbers are in China, with nearly half a billion, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Brazil. The usual suspects, such as the African Sahel and around the Mediterranean are much less affected." Said Dent.
The report concludes that this is just the start of the work that needed to be done. They found only weak correlations between degrading land and rural population density and with biophysical factors such aridity. This leads them to consider the underlying social and economic issues that lead to land degradation as primary issues that need to be addressed. Which leads me to ask -to what end do we wish to manage the land?
Shouldn't our every effort be to improve the soil, water, and vegetation quality of the land we manage? Imagine a city block that built healthy soil, cleaned water, and provided native habitat a vibrant home - what would that city block look like? Can we build it? What economic, social, and spiritual issues need to be changed or addressed to make this happen? These are questions we need to try and answer for the future of humanity.
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