Land degradation affects half of the world's population

Land degradation affects half of the world’s population

On this planet, 40% of the land is now degraded, directly affecting half of humanity, warns the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in a report published on Wednesday, April 27, Global Earth Perspectives (global land outlook). However, soil depletion is synonymous with poverty, hunger, the emergence of zoonoses, migrations and conflict, explain the authors of this broad assessment, which was published ahead of the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to be held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9-20 May. Thus, half of the world’s GDP is threatened, that is, 44 thousand billion dollars. And the situation is getting worse very quickly: the previous edition of this report, published in 2017, estimated the share of degraded soils at 25%, and the number of people affected at 3 billion.

“Never at any other time in recent history has mankind faced such a range of dangers and dangers, familiar or unfamiliar,” The authors of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the agreement resulting from the 1992 Rio summit, say, along with those on climate change and those on biodiversity. Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface has already been altered by man, “causing unprecedented environmental degradation and contributing significantly to global warming”, they confirm.

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The report deals not strictly with the encroachment of deserts, but with the vastness of dry expanses and places that have become uninhabitable. It reveals how ecosystem destruction and social and economic instability are linked and can be read in the case of poor soils. They no longer retain moisture, while the fertility of farmland decreases, fires multiply, erosion and sandstorms intensify. In addition, deforestation and, more broadly, the loss of vegetation reduce carbon dioxide capture, accelerating climate change. However, experts also identify dozens of responses to nature’s degradation, which have been implemented around the world, often successfully.

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Modern agriculture in question

The causes of the decline in urbanization, concrete and extractive industries are manifold, but the main culprit is clearly identified: modern agriculture. This sector, which consumes 70% of the water withdrawn in the world, “It has changed the face of the planet more than any other human activity,” Note the rapporteurs. Intensive monoculture models doped with chemical inputs devour natural spaces and are the primary cause of biodiversity decline. Between 2013 and 2019, 70% of cleared forests were for crops and livestock, in violation of national laws or regulations.

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