Desertification is the transformation of arable, productive land into barren wastelands. The reasons go far beyond global warming. Desertification is a process that slowly changes lush, fertile land into expanses of dead soil.
We can see this in action in India, Africa, Madagascar, South America, Mexico and throughout the southwestern U.S. Furthermore, existing deserts are expanding rapidly into what were once fertile breadbaskets.
The destruction of habitat is accelerated by climate change and global warning but other culprits include mismanagement of land resources, falling water tables due to the demands of overpopulated areas, clear cutting of forests to make room for more agriculture and the resulting man-made drought.
All this and more will have a huge effect on the future of food.
Over population causes the land to be farmed so intensively that the soil quickly becomes depleted of nutrients. More land then needs to be cleared of forests and grasses to plant more crops. Thus the stage is set for the process to expand.
In addition, without the forest and grasses to hold the soil in place it quickly erodes or blows away. What is left is barren rock and clay that will barely grow weeds much less food crops. Tumbleweeds don't seem to mind. All we need to do is figure out how to eat them. Add one more strike against the future of food.
The textbook shown above applies the research undertaken during the last 15 years. Desertification has become increasingly politicized and there is a need to present and explain the facts from a global perspective.
This book, from Amazon.com tackles the issues surrounding this threat from a local, regional and global perspective to the human and physical processes at work. Click on the image to buy it or get more information.
As the cartoon character Pogo is famous for saying, "We have met the enemy and he is us". The destruction of arable land is directly the result of human activity and too many humans means expanding deserts.
The easy out is just to shrug it off to global warming since throughout the history of the world global warming and cooling cycles have been pretty regular. The difference now is that the rate of global warming has accelerated as never before and the blame for that lies at our feet, not mother nature's.
We tend to think of expanding deserts as some far away phenomenon such as Mongolia or the Sahara or Sudan. But in the U.S. all one has to do is look at photographer Peter McBride's photo montage of the Colorado River that he shot for the Smithsonian. It was published in the October 2010 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine. The Colorado River is running dry; disappearing into golf courses, expanding Arizona subdivisions, vast irrigated fields of produce, mining operations and thirsty urban areas.
Today about 40% of the earth's land area is desert or semiarid lands that are rapidly transforming into deserts. Around two billion people are attempting to eke out a living in these hostile environments and it is estimated that in 40 more years, a third of the world's projected nine billion people will occupy desert areas.
Unfortunately, once the land depleted and all its nutrients and topsoil gone with the wind, it is almost impossible to restore it to its once fertile condition. Expanding desertification means expanding famine.
Now is a good time to look at the linkage between desertification and water tables: specifically how growing populations, farming, recreation and industry drain groundwater faster than it can be replenished and ultimately transform productive land into wasteland.