Theme of 2020: Food, Feed, Fibre
If we keep producing and consuming as usual, we will eat into the planet’s capacity to sustain life until there is nothing left but scraps. We all need to make better choices about what we eat and what we wear to help protect and restore the land.Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification
First of all, there’s a UN-designated day to combat desertification and drought, and it’s on June 17th. How neat is that!
What that day brings to light, however, is not quite as wholesome.
There’s more humans now than ever there has been. Some projections say we’re going to be reaching 10 billion people by 2050, even though we still have the same-sized Earth on which to keep everyone alive and happy. More and more land is being transformed into something toxic or untenable to life. If you can imagine how much land we’re using right now to produce food, imagine how much more will be needed when the population jumps by 25%.
To have enough productive land to meet the demands of ten billion people by 2050, lifestyles need to change. Desertification and Drought Day, running under the slogan “Food. Feed. Fibre.” seeks to educate individuals on how to reduce their personal impact.UNCCD
Desertification and Drought Day is an effort to remind people that what we buy and consume comes mostly from the earth. The theme for this year was crafted from a public competition, in which Mr. Irfan Miswari won with a suggestion on the fashion industry’s impact in Indonesia’s West Java Province. If you ever want to feel a measurable amount of horror, consider the finding that fashion companies in that already drought-prone area use 2500 liters of water to make a t-shirt.
We the consumers have an ability and responsibility to let producers know we’d prefer more sustainable sources for all our many things.
Desertification refers to the changing of dryland ecosystems into desert (not the expansion of existing desert). Drylands are pretty common across the world – savannas, scrublands, grasslands, and all sorts of land characterized by a lack of water. With their delicate balance of life and water, these lands are easily exploited. Drylands house roughly a third of the human population, and cover half the planet’s land. When people take resources from areas such as this, it becomes very difficult for the land to replenish those resources due to the intense lack of water.
And as desertification takes hold, the land can spiral down into a worse state. Imagine the dust storms that can arise from a land with no plants holding the earth down!
The first step in combatting any climate change is a change in behavior. Many of the things we wear and eat come from plants, and many of the other things we wear and eat come from the heavily-processed remnants of plants. Renewable resources are the name of the game.
Prevention is better than rehabilitation, though that’s not to say land can’t be reclaimed by nature (with a little human help). Prevention is more cost effective, less harmful to the land, and has a greater chance of keeping neighboring ecosystems from suffering the fallout of a collapse. The humans that live in these drylands are often also the ones to suffer the effects most acutely. Half of the people living below the poverty line live in drylands. When the land that they turn to for their livelihood can no longer support them, their lives are just as much at risk as the nature living alongside them.
Many of the proposed solutions focus on a ‘culture of prevention’ that goes two directions. One path includes using the land more effectively, with a focus on maintaining vegetative ground cover (to retain water and prevent erosion) and preventing salinization. Another path includes providing economic opportunities that exist away from the dryland – either in new forms of low-footprint gardening (such as greenhouses) or by creating jobs that do not impose a burden on the land.
Due to the sheer number of drylands and the myriad ways that we’re encroaching on them, it’s likely that hundreds of different solutions will be found. I can only hope that they all work. We live here, and we shouldn’t neglect that.