Thursday, December 17, 2009

Relevance of Desertification for Small States

One third of the earth’s surface (4 billion hectares) is threatened by desertification, and over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification. 24 billion tons of fertile soil disappear annually. From 1991 to 2000 alone, droughts have been responsible for over 280,000 deaths; they accounted for 11% of the total water-related disasters.

Deserts in the interior continents are expanding (Sahara, Gobi, Central Asian, Mexico, North eastern Brazil) They all tend to expand. And as ice is melting and sea level rises we have the oceans encroaching from the exterior. Civilisation is slowly squeezed between expanding deserts and rising seas. It’s a little difficult to archeologically separate land degradation and desertification but two of the things that are common to the earlier civilizations that collapsed primarily for environmental reasons are deforestation and soil erosion ( Gerald Diamond writes about it in his recent book ‘collapse’ )

Apart from the geographic factor, one needs to keep in mind the standard of living of the people who are experiencing desertification in their area regardless if they’re situated in a big continent or a small island. In the small islands one is usually more careful how to manage the land, as to keep a balance. In most of the cases it is necessary for these islands to be independent and to be able sustain themselves. When compared to large continents and countries it can be said that it’s more possible for the people to migrate though it may cause trouble as well when tribes have to move to other places. Whereas with small islands it’s a different story, they are cut off from other places.

In a session held in May 2008 by the U.N. the issue of land was addressed. Concerns about land competition, drought, degradation, limited resources, and desertification, warning that development capacities are necessary to strengthen land management, otherwise the result will be a food crisis. He asserted that we must “strive to raise the voice of Small Island Developing State” because they have the least means in responding to these complex problems that threaten their existence.

Subsequent to this presentation, the Security-General’s report was introduced. The report stated that land resources are becoming more limited because rising populations create a greater demand. While many populations depend on agriculture for income, the agricultural industry has been declining for two decades. The report also found SIDS to suffer from closed economies, limited capacities, inadequate physical structures, a lack of financial resources, susceptibility to natural disasters and insufficient access to information technology.

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