Welcome to the blog of the course and textbook Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. This course is run by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Glaring signs of active desertification and the hopeful yet strategic words of a wise man

A recent report entitled UN report: one-third of worlds food wasted annually, at great economic, environmental cost sparked in me a concern over land usage and destruction caused by our very own food wastage. Our wasted food accounts for a staggering 28% of the worlds agricultural area or 1.4billion hectares.  All of which ends up in our bin. The article discusses a recent report published by the FAO on our Food Wastage Footprint. With the drastic spreading of desertification, we simply cannot afford to allow 28% of our fertile land produce to be thrown in the garbage. As the diagram below indicates, areas surrounding now desert land (marked in red) are at high risk of desertification, these areas often belong to small countries who are highly dependent on their agricultural use and whose desertification will only cause a ripple effect of increased dependence and indebtedness on agricultural land belonging to more economically wealthy countries.
Copyright: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Desertification_map.png

The results of a study undertaken by A. Challinor in 2010 suggests that for China, climate change will result in increasing spring wheat crop failure in northeast China due to increasing extremes of both heat and water stress. Now according to this quotation, that study correlates with the image above, where North-east China is at high risk of desertification. There has also been a lot of coverage on rice crop failures in China and the millions of tonnes of GHGs released as a result of this. Although there are ideas being developed to create heat-resistant and drought-resistant crops, the real answer is right in front of us and within reach. Following the FAO report cited earlier, the FAO provided a free toolkit on reducing our food wastage footprint.

Copyright: http://www.rmaf.org.ph/userfiles/

Another view of desertification which I would like to touch on is that of Masanobu Fukuoka. I recently read a book of his, One Straw Revolution which spoke of his system of natural farming where crops could be grown without plowing his fields, using no prepared fertilisers or agricultural chemicals and did not flood his rice fields as farmers in Asia continue to do. A method which he himself developed and lived by for over 65years and in fact yielded greater quantities of crops than the most productive farms in Japan. This book is highly relevant to the individual and although delves into some technicality, Fukuokas book serves a far greater purpose than farming methods. However it is his second and last book which I find so relevant to this topic of desertification, called Sowing Seeds in the Desert. Although Fukuokas influence has been only marginal so far, the increased rate of desertification begs us to look at alternative possibilities, which include a return to simple but effective methods of farming. Fukuoka reminds us that the present state of our land is not natural but rather a result of our own destructive actions, his silver-longing however, is it can be remedied and perhaps eventually reversed. HIs aspiration was to achieve global food security by natural farming which he practiced and preached in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Europe and the United States.  Fukuoka offers us an opportunity to put aside our guilt as we face this earths degradation and take a step forward in the right direction.

Una Quinn

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