The impact of various human activities on the environment is accelerating and leaving little encouraging data, such as the one that points out that 40% of the planet’s land is degradeda problem that, according to data from the United Nations Organization (UN), affects half of the world’s population.
The growing damage caused by different industries, especially those derived from food productionParadoxically, they are attacking the ability to feed an increasingly large population.
Degraded lands, that is, those that have been stripped of natural resources, soil fertility, water, biodiversity, trees or native vegetation, are found all over the planet.
This is because it is not only about arid deserts, tropical forests that disappear due to deforestation or areas covered by urban sprawl; but in addition to apparently “green” regions that are intensively cultivated or denuded of natural vegetation.
Consequences for the next 30 years
Growing food on degraded land is becoming more difficult as soils are quickly depleted and water resources too. The degradation also contributes to the loss of plant and animal speciesand can aggravate climate crisis by reducing the Earth’s ability to absorb and store carbon.
Whether as a consequence of food production or the consumption of other goods such as clothing, much of the degradation is most visible in developing countriesbut the root cause of overconsumption is in the rich world, where meat consumption is higher and gently used clothing is discarded.
If urgent measures are not taken to control this situation, an area the size of South America will become degraded by 2050according to the Global Earth Outlook 2 report.
Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, said: “Land degradation is affecting food, water, carbon and biodiversity. It is reducing GDP, affecting health of people, reducing access to clean water and worsening drought.
Investments for restoration
Restoring degraded land is possible by changing farming methods to terracing and contouring, leaving land fallow, or growing nutritious cover crops. You can also practice collecting and storing rainwater or planting trees to prevent soil erosion.
Although many farmers do not take these measures to maintain their production levels, the UN estimates that for every dollar spent on restoration, there can be a return of between seven and 30 dollars in increased production and other benefits.
Thiaw called for governments and the private sector to invest $1.6 billion over the next decade to restore health to some 1 billion hectares of degraded land, an area the size of the United States or China.
This would represent only a small proportion of the $700 billion annually spent on subsidies to agriculture and fossil fuelsbut it would protect the planet’s soils, water resources and fertility.
“Every farmer, big or small, can practice regenerative agriculture. You don’t need high technology or a doctorate to use them,” he said in dialogue with Guardian.
According to the report, land degradation threatens about half of the world’s annual economic output, or about $44 billion a year. But economic benefit of restoring land degraded could amount to between 125 and 140 billion dollars a year, which would be 50% more than the 93 billion dollars of global GDP registered for 2021.
The Global Earth Outlook 2 report, which is the second of its kind to be published, has taken the UN five years of compilation with 21 partner organizations and represents the most comprehensive database of knowledge about the planet’s land to date. date.