Alert: Na­ture on the Verge of Bank­ruptcy

Weekend Mirror - - CHILDREN’S CORNER - By Ba­her Ka­mal

(IPS) - Pres­sures on global land re­sources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion cou­pled with ris­ing lev­els of con­sump­tion is plac­ing ever-larger de­mands on the world’s land-based nat­u­ral cap­i­tal, warns a new United Na­tions re­port.

Con­sump­tion of t he earth’s nat­u­ral re­serves has dou­bled in the last 30 years, with a third of the planet’s land now se­verely de­graded, adds the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion to Com­bat De­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion (UNCCD) new re­port, launched on 12 Septem­ber in Or­dos, China dur­ing the Con­ven­tion’s 13th sum­mit (6-16 Septem­ber 2017).

“Each year, we lose 15 bil­lion trees and 24 bil­lion tonnes of fer­tile soil,” the UNCCD’s re­port The Global Land Out­look (GLO) says, adding that a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of man­aged and nat­u­ral ecosys­tems are de­grad­ing and at fur­ther risk from cli­mate change and bio­di­ver­sity loss.

"Land degra­da­tion also trig­gers com­pe­ti­tion for scarce re­sources, which can lead to mi­gra­tion and in­se­cu­rity while ex­ac­er­bat­ing ac­cess and in­come in­equal­i­ties."

In ba­sic terms, there is in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the de­mand for goods and ser­vices that ben­e­fit peo­ple, like food, wa­ter, and en­ergy, and the need to pro­tect other ecosys­tem ser­vices that reg­u­late and sup­port all life on Earth, ac­cord­ing to new pub­li­ca­tion.

The re­port pro­vides some key facts: from 1998 to 2013, ap­prox­i­mately 20 per cent of the Earth’s veg­e­tated land sur­face showed per­sis­tent de­clin­ing trends in pro­duc­tiv­ity, ap­par­ent in 20 per cent of crop­land, 16 per cent of for­est land, 19 per cent of grass­land, and 27 per cent of range­land.

These trends are “es­pe­cially alarm­ing” in the face of the in­creased de­mand for land-in­ten­sive crops and live­stock.”

More Land Degra­da­tion, More Cli­mate Change

Land degra­da­tion con­trib­utes to cli­mate change and in­creases the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of mil­lions of peo­ple, es­pe­cially the poor, women, and chil­dren, says UNCCD, adding that cur­rent man­age­ment prac­tises in the land-use sec­tor are re­spon­si­ble for about 25 per cent of the world’s green­houses gases, while land degra­da­tion is both a cause and a re­sult of poverty.

“Over 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple, mostly in the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, are trapped on de­grad­ing agri­cul­tural land, ex­posed to cli­mate stress, and there­fore ex­cluded from wider in­fra­struc­ture and eco­nomic devel­op­ment.”

High Tem­per­a­ture, Wa­ter Scarcity

Mean­while, higher tem­per­a­tures, chang­ing rain­fall pat­terns, and in­creased wa­ter scarcity due to cli­mate change will al­ter the suit­abil­ity of vast re­gions for food pro­duc­tion and hu­man habi­ta­tion, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

“The mass ex­tinc­tion of flora and fauna, in­clud­ing the loss of crop wild rel­a­tives and key­stone species that hold ecosys­tems to­gether, fur­ther jeop­ar­dises re­silience and adap­tive ca­pac­ity, par­tic­u­larly for the ru­ral poor who de­pend most on the land for their ba­sic needs and liveli­hoods.”

Our food sys­tem, UNCCD warns, has put the fo­cus on short-term pro­duc­tion and profit rather than long-term en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

Mono­cul­tures, Ge­net­i­cally Mod­i­fied Crops

The modern agri­cul­tural sys­tem has re­sulted in huge in­creases in pro­duc­tiv­ity, hold­ing off the risk of famine in many parts of the world but, at the same time, is based on mono­cul­tures, ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops, and the in­ten­sive use of fer­tilis­ers and pes­ti­cides that un­der­mine long-term sus­tain­abil­ity, it adds.

And here are some of the con­se­quences: food pro­duc­tion ac­counts for 70 per cent of all fresh­wa­ter with­drawals and 80 per cent of de­for­esta­tion, while soil, the ba­sis for global food se­cu­rity, is be­ing con­tam­i­nated, de­graded, and eroded in many areas, re­sult­ing in long-term de­clines in pro­duc­tiv­ity.

In par­al­lel, small-scale farm­ers, the back­bone of ru­ral liveli­hoods and food pro­duc­tion for mil­len­nia, are un­der im­mense strain from land degra­da­tion, in­se­cure ten­ure, and a glob­alised food sys­tem that favours con­cen­trated, large-scale, and highly mech­a­nised agribusi­ness.

This widen­ing gulf be­tween pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion, and en­su­ing lev­els of food loss/waste, fur­ther ac­cel­er­ates the rate of land use change, land degra­da­tion and de­for­esta­tion, warns the UN Con­ven­tion.

Speak­ing at the launch of the re­port, UNCCD Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary Monique Bar­but said, “Land degra­da­tion and drought are global chal­lenges and in­ti­mately linked to most, if not all as­pects of hu­man se­cu­rity and well-be­ing – food se­cu­rity, em­ploy­ment and mi­gra­tion, in par­tic­u­lar.”

No Land, No Civil­i­sa­tion

Ac­cord­ing the Con­ven­tion, land is an es­sen­tial build­ing block of civil­i­sa­tion yet its con­tri­bu­tion to our qual­ity of life is per­ceived and val­ued in starkly dif­fer­ent and of­ten in­com­pat­i­ble ways.

A mi­nor­ity has grown rich from the un­sus­tain­able use and large- scale ex­ploita­tion of l and re­sources with re­lated con­flicts in­ten­si­fy­ing in many coun­tries, UNCCD states.

“Our abil­ity to man­age trade- offs at a land­scape scale will ul­ti­mately de­cide t he f uture of l and re­sources – soil, wa­ter, and bio­di­ver­sity – and de­ter­mine suc­cess or fail­ure in de­liv­er­ing poverty re­duc­tion, food and wa­ter se­cu­rity, and cli­mate change mitigation and adap­ta­tion.”

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