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Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm getting dry just writing about it.

Ignored by most papers this week is a report from the United Nations on the predicted impact of desertification. The BBC and the Seattle Post Intelligencer both reported on the study claiming 50 million people will be displaced within the next decade from desertification and further than 2 billion people who currently occupy dry lands are potential victims of desertification.

So what are the causes of desertification?

1. Global warming - changing weather patterns, rising heat, increased need for agricultural water, higher evaporation rates of lakes and land.

2. Over grazing by live stock- destruction of plant life which holds soils leading to increased erosion, decreased ground shading which increases evaporation.

3. Intensive and or unsustainable farming- Driven by market forces farmers often plan inappropriate thirsty crops like corn and cotton rather than crops better adapted to the growing conditions. These choices mean higher levels of irrigation than are sustainable, example: the near draining of the Ural sea for Soviet agriculture.

4. Aquifer depletion- in order to sustain crops where they don't belong, deep aquifers of fossil water have been tapped and over utilized lowering the water table and making non irrigated lands bone dry.

5. Poorly designed and maintained irrigation systems- The irrigation systems around the Ural sea wasted so much water to leakage and evaporation that the sea was pumped down faster each year. Spraying water increases evaporation and total water use, whereas a well maintained drip system for produce can drastically decrease water use. A covered or sealed irrigation system vs open trenches also saves water.

6. Dams and man made water diversions- Since the large Nile Aswan dam system was build the fertility of Egyptian lands have decreased because of the lack of the annual flood which added moisture, organic content and washed away salt build up from the soils. Short sighted development plans have done as much harm as good.

7. Gluttonous Urban use, we live this- Growing grass and keeping it green all year, washing cars, sidewalks, high volume toilets, 30 minute showers, and top opening washers are just a sampling of our gluttony. The stupidity of Las Vegas and other green zones in the middle of a desert truly question our fitness to survive as a race.

8. Importation of non-native species of plants- South Africa was heavily planted with imported tree species brought by the Dutch and English. These species consumed much larger quantities of ground water and were actually drying up rivers. Recent programs to remove non-native trees and replace them with native species have returned water flow in some rivers previously dry.

So what does this all mean?

Well, we have 6.6 billion people who are being squeezed by the threat of both encroaching deserts on one side and rising sea levels on the other.

How the hell are we going to deal with the level of displaced persons in the next 50 years let alone try to feed them with total arable land shrinking, fresh water being wasted, and the oil/gas for farming equipment, fertilizers and pesticides hitting peak?

We are in the process of lowering the carrying capacity of our planet while we are also raising our population and consumption. Something is going to break and it's going to get ugly!

Do you really think the political parties and processes that allowed these problems to arise in the first place can solve them?

Only a Green Canada can be a strong Canada.Recommend this Post

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