Posted by: Dr Pano Kroko | April 18, 2013

Desertification causes humans to turn into desert rats

The United Nations Scientific Conference on the theme:  “Economic assessment of desertification and unsustainable land management practices”  focuses on the impact indicators to be used to assess the direction of change in land’s agricultural productivity, food security, and human lives. Experts and leaders from around the world gather in Bonn to assess how best to formulate policies that encourage governments and regional leaders to conserve water, arrest desertification, and protect their agriculture by strengthening the farmlands and rebuilding the Green Commons such as forests, oases and green belts. Naturally am also here in this meeting in Bonn – Germany, because am keenly aware and willing to contribute in the formulation of the serious and mindful Public Policies we need to enact at the local, the national and international levels, in order to remove the root causes of land desertification — hoping to arrest it’s runaway growth.

Because deserts grow like viruses do…

Exponentially.

Fast.

Eventually…

Killing the host.

You know that today most capital cite around the globe suffer the problem of desertification in one way or another. These monstrously engorged concrete jungles are depleted of green and therefore are very much deprived of oxygen and thus are full of CO2 poisoned angry people… Oxygen depletion causes anger and stupidity at the first instance and thus our big cities are full of people that are ready to pounce on each other — like so many crazed lab rats turning on each other for sport.

That is the effect of land degradation and desertification taken to the extreme of un-sustainability that a large concrete modern city represents.

Since land degradation’s variants are many — yet all of them attributed directly to drought, anthropogenic climate change, intensive farming practices, and poor water management — we have a chance of understanding and nudging behaviour towards optimal better practice via wise Public Policy. Desertification is low on many countries’ radar, as illustrated by Canada’s recent withdrawal from the UNCCD, but its links to human health, failing agriculture, and food security, are starting to resonate with governments, industry, and businesses, particularly given the constant fears over the world’s ability to feed it’s current number of people and prepare for a soaring population to come…

With more than 2 billion people already going hungry today and almost a Billion of them in famine conditions, we are certainly doing a poor job at addressing this most basic of needs — let alone in establishing food security for our common tomorrows…

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts demand for food will increase by 60% by 2050. Experts say the world will need at a minimum, an additional 120 million hectares of agricultural land to support the required food production if the Climate doesn’t scorch even more land than is being forecast as becoming unusable for agriculture. And that optimistic scenario entails finding new farmlands so big that the aggregate total is more than the sum of all the lands of South Africa and Zimbabwe combined. Meanwhile recent studies by the UK Met Office and USAID have linked the severe drought facing the US, Russia, Canada, and the one that has hit East Africa since 2011 and the subsequent falling wheat, maize, corn and rice yields across the world and in South East Asia in particular for rice — along with the trembling of the prices of all main staple food supplies — because of the CO2 greenhouse warming planet effect, due to man-made climate change. Since 2000, the prices of other staples such as meat, dairy, cereals and sugar have also tripled, reflecting a lack of elasticity in the food market’s supply chain.

This represents a Vicious cycle of multiple failures because all of our efforts to boost agricultural production often lead to deforestation, a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. This has a knock on effect in terms of reducing the planet’s store of natural carbon sinks and destroying the ‘ecosystem services’ trees provide such as water storage, exacerbating the problem. The UNCCD hopes to adopt a ‘Zero Net Land Degradation by 2030′ resolution at its 2013 Conference of the Parties in Namibia later this year, and there are signs sustainable land management could form one of the Sustainable Development Goals set to be announced in 2015. Last week, former President of Finland Tarja Halonen, acting Chairman of the UN Global Sustainability Panel, indicated that the links between rural poverty, famine and land management should “guide the work” on those new sets of targets. “Sustainable land management, prevention of land degradation and rehabilitation of land is the most cost effective and cost beneficial way to arrest desertification, protect human life, and also help rural poverty,” she added.

In Africa alone a UNCCD expert panel estimates that upwards of 12% – 15% of agricultural GDP is lost due to global warming, deteriorating environmental conditions, and climate refugees leaving their communities — all contributing to the high levels of famines, chronic hunger, and conflict on the continent. This situation is rather acute all across the Sahel, as well as, in South Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and the Horn of Africa, all territories where the combination of weak governments, increased temperatures, and a lack of annual rains — linked to climate change — are driving desertification levels way up and out of control turning huge swath of previously fertile agricultural land into scorched earth dust bowls and hot deserts.

In China over 500 million people – a third of the country’s population – are affected adversely, by soil erosion, desertification, and impossible agriculture due to climatic effects, that are causing an annual economic losses of US$ 300 billion, while the UNCCD says Indian reports of land’s degradation have increased “by a factor of six”.

For the national Leaders out there:

Care to consider how SAFE  and SECURE your food supply really i?

In the UK we are three day’s meals away from anarchy.

What is your food security horizon?

Consider this rather carefully because Severe land degradation is now affecting 169 countries across the world.

This is according to meticulous and purely scientific new research released by the UN Desertification Convention (UNCCD). The figures are based on submissions from the world’s countries to the UN, and represent a marked increase from the last analysis performed in the mid-1990s, which estimated that only about 100 states were at risk.

In an economic analysis published last week, the Convention also warns land degradation is now costing US$490 billion per year in China alone and upward of several Trillion US $ dollars worldwide.

Deforestation and the resultant desertification is wiping out an area greater than three times the size of Switzerland on an annual basis worldwide. “Land degradation and drought are impeding the development of all nations in the world,” UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja summarised.

“This is a challenge that is causing governments to take this issue seriously, but how do you get them to take it seriously? By showing them the rate of return on restoring degraded land is one of the smartest investments of our time. He added: “Desertification, land degradation and drought is an issue of market failure. The lack of economic market valuation has led to land being perceived as a cheap resource.”

Methinks: That maybe it’s time to start reforesting and consider multiple blends of forest lands, along with food forests and agricultural forests, created locally, because within the shade of the large trees we can plant the best crops and allow them to grow organically where they are protected from too much heat and too much sun…

Case in Point. After All… The best coffee in the world is organic and grown in the shade…

It will also give work to many people because this type of shade tree agriculture is best done un-mechanized.

The land is not tilled nor burned and the humus – top soil – is left undisturbed and in no need of fertilizers, weed killers or petrochemicals. The resultant organic food staples are far higher in nutritional value and a lot less labour intensive to produce.

Masanubo Fukuoka – friend and fellow One Straw revolutionary – perfected this method of organic growth over seven decades of naturally sustainable agricultural farming. And he did this producing superior yields by a factor or six —  to all other intensive mechanical agriculture and his method of green revolution only required an hour of work per day for the farmer. It is so amazing that this form of agriculture allows NATURE to be the real farmer.

A fantastic win win…

What’s not to like.

So here it goes:

Job Number One:

Let’s start recovering the living skin of our planet with Green Forests and Green Belts in order to arrest desertification worldwide.

Yours,

Pano

PS:

After working with China to stem the desertification at the Loess plateau, and then attending the super interesting, high level and confidential ISGP conference on Contagious Diseases and Food Security — am here in Bonn  having some major impact on this United Nation Conference focused on the most pivotal issue for humanity…

By the way the science based approach for consensus building Public Policy at the ISGP — the Institute for Science on Global Policy – founded and run by my friend George Atkinson ex-undersecretary of the United States for Science and Technology is a great American success story worthy of admiration, and support. Trust their judgement to help us find solutions for global food safety and security and create public policy to protect us from fast spreading viral contagious diseases. Now up to you LEADERS to deliver it…

Because as with the brand new avian influenza deadly virus just discovered in China, that ha no genetic make up similarity to anything we’ve seen before  — we are in for some nasty surprises. And with the recurring and newly resistant Tuberculosis virus attacking Europe’s  doors via the viral fertile ground of a weakened Greek population — our future is rather uncertain. This TB virus kills fully every other person when it reaches the lungs. Because as a pneumonic TB it kills fifty percent of the hosts…

That rate of killing infection is worse than HIV and Cholera’s combined death rates.

Any Leadership out there?

Yet this post is about the lands… so we’ll get bak there.

DESERTIFICATION

Because from what I saw back in China there are two thousand Capitals and Metropolitan Cities buried deep in the sands of the Taklamakan dessert with nary a sign of life stirring there today.

That used to be the fertile crescent many eons ago and overexploitation and the destruction of forests turned it into a hot and inhospitable desert.

Sadly we are going down the same path. By cutting down and burning up all of our forests, we turn all of our countries into deserts. We do this far faster than the capacity of the human species to adapt to the changing environment. And at the end if we were able to adapt, we would still have to adapt towards becoming desert rats. Because desert rat are the only mammalian animal species able to survive in the desert environments well.

We are turning into the proverbial human desert rats. We are doing this ourselves…

No questions asked.

And yet we can avoid this fate.

We can choose to alter course…

And there are cities and benevolent leaders that have done this.

There are shining examples, like South Korea’s Seoul. The capital city, where a new City Forest was created under the leadership of Lee Myung-bak and is now the world renown oxygen rich Seoul Forest… This forest in turn has produced so much oxygen for the people of Seoul that in large part has made them happier, smarter, and healthier human beings. There are many doctors in Seoul who attribute the economic miracle of South Korea to this renewed oxygenation of the brains of the citizens and leaders alike. Because more oxygen in the brain contributes to better and clearer decision making and this is how a peaceful hard working and clearly thinking society thrives.

Oxygen is the number one necessity for the human being brains to function properly…

This brand new forest of Seoul has also completely changed the microclimate of the concrete jungle that Seoul city is. Along with the restoration of the river, the dream forest, the huge Seoul forest and the grass lands park, that were built during his term as Mayor of Seoul — Lee also restored the flows of the Cheonggyecheon stream. This was covered up and treated as a sewer and it has now been uncovered and restored so that it flows uninhibided through the heart of Seoul and functions as a modern public recreation space and a green belt — enough beauty and oxygen for the citizens of Seoul to consider their city the most livable city on earth…

In May 2006, Asian Times reported that “Seoul, once synonymous with ‘concrete jungle,’ has achieved successful transformation of its face into a green oasis and now is considered the best among other Asian cities with the most productive environment…. in terms of oxygen regeneration.


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