Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
Saving Drylands: COP10 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification      
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Caring viewers, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. From October 10 to 21, 2011, the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Changwon, South Korea.

One of three major United Nations environmental agreements, the Convention was adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and established in 1994 to address the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote sustainable development in the world’s drylands. During the Conference, approximately 6,400 scientists, experts, government officials and non-governmental organization staff members from 156 countries discussed strategies to halt desertification.

Today, we’ll present part one of a three-part series featuring Supreme Master Television’s interviews with Conference participants. In terms of sustainable development, drylands are arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions, generally excluding deserts, and are characterized by sparse, irregular precipitation, large daily temperature variations and soil with little organic matter. Drylands cover 61.5-million square kilometers or 41.3% of Earth’s land surface, a huge proportion considering that the rest of the planet’s land includes mountains along with arable regions.

Drylands also contain about 44% of the world’s farmed areas, where plant species endemic to arid climates account for 30% of the crops currently being cultivated. In addition, drylands are home to 2.1-billion people, 90% of whom live in developing countries. Such major cities as Cairo, Egypt, Mexico City, Mexico and New Delhi, India are located in drylands. Thus, sustainable management and development of drylands are essential measures for governments to address.

Desertification, as we all know, is a serious problem affecting the whole world and has caused a lot of low production in our soils.

The term desertification refers to the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions due to climatic variations, human activity and other factors. Over 100 countries are affected by the phenomenon. Africa is the world’s driest continent, where two-thirds of the surface area is desert or drylands, and frequent, acute droughts severely threaten many nations.

The Sahara Desert is expanding at a rate of 48 kilometers a year. And the Sahel, a 1,000 kilometer belt of semi-arid land that is marked by the Sahara Desert to the north and savanna to the south is being severely affected in parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

Niger is one of the countries most affected by the problem of desertification. It's a landlocked country with no outlet to the sea, where three-fourths of the territory, the land surface is desert.

Desertification in my country, because I come from Burkina Faso, it is a phenomenon that is much related to the issue of droughts, the extreme phenomena of climate change.

Asia is another continent with areas prone to desertification, including 1.7-billion hectares of land ranging from the Middle East to Central Asia and the Pacific Coast. Land degradation is expanding deserts in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, as well as the sandy regions of the Middle East. In fact, Asia is the continent being most seriously affected by growing deserts.

The desertification rate has increased in Mongolia because Mongolia is a landlocked country and it has a mainland atmosphere. Secondly, according to the altitude, many Mongolian regions are located over 1,000 meters above sea level. About 70% of all the land of Mongolia is being affected by desertification with different rates in different regions. Some regions have a higher rate of desertification, some have a middle rate and some have a lower rate. Last year at the point where desertification has occurred in the Gobi Desert area, we held a parliament session to make the whole world focus on desertification.

Kazakhstan has vast territories, more than 272-million hectares. And more than 70% are pastures. The battle with soil degradation and desertification has great significance for our country.

Climate change aggravated by rapidly increasing greenhouse-gas emissions has a hugely detrimental impact on our Earth’s drylands through increased loss of water from the soil and sparse or erratic precipitation. On the other hand, drylands are significant carbon sinks that store 46% of global carbon. When land degradation occurs, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The principal causes of this desertification are the climate factors, which make it a very arid zone. Then, the human factors are linked to degradation due to the use of natural resources.

It is also clear that our country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is suffering from the pressure of climate change. This is really obvious in regions located to the north and the south, I would say mainly the region of Katanga, where before the rainy season lasted six to seven months. Now we are starting to see periods of five months and this is really serious. And also we have to add the climate variability, which renders all the agricultural programs no longer suitable.

Over the past 40 years, analysis shows that due to global warming, the impact of climate change has influenced Mongolia more than three times than the world. More clearly, while the average atmospheric temperature of the world increased by 0.74 degrees Celsius, the Mongolian temperature has risen by 2.10 degrees Celsius. So it is a main, leading driver of desertification. Adding to this, vegetation is affected by the impact of climate change.

Climate change is affecting all countries. We have desertification in some areas due to climate change. Many years before, we didn’t face the problem that we have. The amount of rain is becoming less due to climate change. And even if we have the amount of rain which is enough, now we are getting the water in a very short period during the year. This is affecting our region in the Middle East in general.

The ecological system of a dryland region is extremely fragile. If land degradation proceeds, desert-like conditions are created. Data from the United Nations shows that approximately 12-million hectares of land, an area larger than Bulgaria, are succumbing to degradation each year. And 70% of Earth’s drylands are already degraded to some degree. This trend has been exacerbated by rapid deforestation.

I believe that the main cause is the human being. The human being is the main cause, because cutting the trees, the forest fires, and the land degradation, mostly is due to human beings. Of course, land erosion, water, floods, other weather conditions also cause desertification.

The rate of degradation in Indonesia is quite high, actually. And the ability of the country to rehabilitate cannot match the rate of degradation.

Currently, the deforestation situation has become more and more serious because of the exploitation of the forest by private enterprise. And also, the population has this source of revenue, the forest. So there is a strong stress by the population on the forest. The land is also equally degrading across the country because of this human pressure.

In fact, the cultural practices being used are not compatible with methods that preserve the land. And this phenomenon is strongly felt around big cities where usually after big rainfalls, there are landslides. The problem is really serious in the cities concerning land degradation.

The desertification of land degradation in Guatemala is very serious because we have a high population growth. We don’t have clear development plans for using the land and having access to the land. Therefore there are many regions in the country which have degraded very fast, and we are losing also the forest.

We would like to thank all the attendees of the Conference for determinedly working to end desertification. May we ensure further land does not become desert through better stewardship of our planet.

For more information on the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, please visit www.UNCCD.int

Please join us again next Wednesday for Planet Earth: Our Loving Home and part two of our feature on the Conference. Eco-conscious viewers, thank you for watching today’s program. May all lives be imbued with divine love from Heaven.
Concerned viewers, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. From October 10 to 21, 2011, the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Changwon, South Korea.

One of three major United Nations environmental agreements, the Convention was adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and established in 1994 to address the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote sustainable development in the world’s drylands. During the Conference, approximately 6,400 scientists, experts, government officials and non-governmental organization staff members from 156 countries discussed strategies to halt desertification.

The term desertification refers to the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions due to climatic variations, human activity and other factors. Over 100 countries and 1.2-billion people are affected by the phenomenon.

Today, we’ll present part two of a three-part series featuring Supreme Master Television’s interviews with Conference participants. Topsoil is the uppermost layer of soil containing nutrient-rich organic matter and micro-organisms. When this invaluable layer erodes, it results in enormous declines in general crop-growing capacity. Around the world, the rate of erosion far exceeds that of soil replenishment, with soil being swept away 10 times faster than it is restored in the United States, and 50 times faster in China and India.

The cause is mainly bad management of the land cover. We are cutting the forest without renewing, without putting new trees. The cities are growing very fast and they are not taking into account the environment as an issue in their development plans. When you open the land for agriculture, they’re using a lot of agricultural chemicals. So basically after a couple of years, we lose the topsoil and we lose fertility because we are only using chemicals to produce (crops).

The Great Plains region in the midwestern United States experienced extreme soil erosion during the Dust Bowl period of the 1930s. Massive amounts of topsoil were blown from degraded fields and transported away in storm clouds. Soil ecosphere is complex with countless species interacting to generate organic matter. Soil forms over a long period of time, playing a role as the groundwork of civilizations.

But, Professor David Montgomery of the University of Washington, USA warns in his book, “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilization” that “it only takes one good rainstorm when the soil is bare to lose a century's worth of dirt.”

When the soil is degraded, in fact, we cannot make the recovery of the organic matter in these soils. So, we come to have completely barren soils which are difficult to recover within a few years. It takes a very long time to recover these lands.

With the influence of tropical storms and hurricanes, we are losing a lot of fertile soil, therefore the desertification issue becomes more important for the country.

When desertification intensifies, it will cause the arable and productive lands to recede. In one of our research studies in one region in Iran, within 40 years the arable land receded 1,000 meters and turned into deserts.

The so-called “slash-and-burn” farming method, a key driver of desertification, involves felling vegetation and setting fires on the land to create cropland or pasture for livestock. Globally, an estimated 250-500-million farmers worldwide employ this technique. In addition, the use of firewood for cooking and heating by two-billion people is increasing the rate of forest clearing.

The main causes of deforestation are poor agricultural practices; that is, the slash-and- burn method. Farmers cut down trees to expand their production area. Another cause could be we have some experiences of rampant bushfires. During the dry season, a lot of forests get burned and this has also contributed to the loss of biodiversity.

Slash-and-burn agriculture? This is a traditional practice which was used by local communities in the days long ago when resources were still abundant. The use of wood as a source of energy by 98% of the population of the country (Niger), and the fact that there is an increasing population, are also important. These are all factors which together exacerbate the degrading situation of the environment in which these communities live.

The most important causes are mainly related to bushfires, to overgrazing, but also to the problems linked to salinization and to the exploitation of timber-forest resources. So, as a result, many lands are degraded.

If you see that nearly 90% of the population uses wood for cooking in a Sahelian country, this really pushes the forest back. And this will bring desertification because without trees we have wind erosion and rain erosion, which will come and affect the land.

Desertification and land degradation destroy the natural ecosystem of drylands, eventually altering the structure of the biological community and accelerating biodiversity loss, with associated plants and animals becoming endangered or extinct. Soil scientist Elaine Ingham of Oregon State University, USA, says that, “Just one gram of healthy agricultural soil contains around 100 yards of threadlike fungal material, 100 million bacteria, tens of thousands of one-celled organisms called protozoa, and up to 2,000 tiny worms called nematodes.”

There is a link between biodiversity and the production of the land, the soil fertility. Basically the soil fertility is due to the biodiversity in the soil. We are very rapidly losing our biodiversity. And at same time we are growing very fast and we are losing our natural resources very fast. We are having a high rate of losing species, and ecosystems.

It’s a microcosm of what’s happening all over our planet. Its biodiversity is impacted. And I think one of the take-home messages for me at a conference like this is that we’re still dealing with the effects of climate change, but we need to deal with the root causes. And I think that all the time, all of those impacts are squeezing, and constricting our natural areas, our ecosystems and biodiversity.

The United Nations states that global income loss from desertification and degradation is estimated to be a staggering US$42-billion annually. Italy sees the problems of land degradation and desertification as related issues from a very close perspective, not as somebody else’s problem. It surely affects landscape and economics in my country, where the tourism industry is very significant in contributing to its economics.

Water shortages are an especially significant matter in drylands due to decreased rainfall and higher evaporation rates. To maintain basic well-being, an individual needs at least 2,000 cubic meters of water a year, but dryland residents have only 1,300 cubic meters available.

Dry and semi-dry areas have serious droughts because the land degradation gets worse in all areas. We have less rain, more use of natural resources. Land grabbing by the private sector or other companies, deforestation, and all these things together make the situation very bad, in particular, for the indigenous peoples, and rural communities’ livelihood. There is a big threat for those communities and their livelihoods.

Overgrazing is a main driver of land degradation and desertification. Grazing and trampling by livestock severely devastates the soil in rangeland areas.

The livestock sector is a Mongolian traditional industry. But nowadays, overgrazing by livestock has sharply increased. The livestock sector inefficiently drains our grassland resources and plants are being destroyed rapidly. They disappear because of overgrazing. Thus, you can conclude that overgrazing leads to desertification. That is the largest single source of impact.

We also have degraded lands due to overgrazing, especially in Northern Senegal where intensive livestock farming is really extremely overdone.

Livestock severely impacts soils because the animals are grazing everywhere and there is no kind of concentration for organic materials and obviously that doesn’t help soil to be fertilized.

We have been experiencing the problem of overgrazing, especially in dry areas. With the high population of the livestock, they make a compaction of the soil. And then trees cannot grow as well. Then the process of degradation happens.

Only 30% of the Earth’s surface is covered by land, and 30% of that area is used for livestock grazing or growing grain for animal feed. Clearing land for these purposes has created tremendous ecological instability and grave soil degradation around the world. May humanity quickly stop all livestock raising to prevent further desertification and restore dryland ecosystems.

In closing, we’d like to convey our appreciation to the Conference attendees for speaking to us about desertification and providing insights on how this phenomenon affects their respective nations.

For more information on the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, please visit www.UNCCD.int

Please join us again next Wednesday on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home for the conclusion of our feature on the Conference. Eco-wise viewers, thank you for watching today’s program. May we all receive Heaven’s everlasting grace and abundant love.
Observant viewers, welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. From October 10 to 21, 2011, the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Changwon, South Korea.

One of three major United Nations environmental agreements, the Convention was adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, and established in 1994 to address the issues of desertification, land degradation and drought and to promote sustainable development in the world’s drylands. During the Conference, approximately 6,400 scientists, experts, government officials and non-governmental organization staff members from 156 countries discussed strategies to halt desertification.

The term desertification refers to the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid regions due to climatic variations, human activity and other factors. Over 100 countries and 1.2-billion people are affected by the phenomenon.

Today, we’ll present the concluding episode in a three-part series featuring Supreme Master Television’s interviews with Conference participants.

Desertification is a very important thing. It’s not so visible as a mudslide or a landslide, but desertification is a reality. It’s affecting many people. People are dying of hunger because of desertification.

In Iran, we have about 32 million hectares of deserts of which 7 million hectares are in a critical state. And to date, we have investigated 10 million hectares of these desert regions and we have 2 million hectares of the critical regions under control. The primary reason for this is the geological structure of Iran. Apart from that, climate change and inappropriate water resource management, drying up of the wetlands and lowlands, and overutilization of arable lands are causing the increased desertification.

How can desertification be stopped? Countries are employing various means including investing in reforestation, promoting better farming practices such as vegan organic agriculture, supporting improved irrigation, and implementing programs to raise public awareness about desertification.

In our country, we are working on reforestation. Because the green cover in Lebanon has been reduced in 40 years about 20%. It was 33%. Now it’s 13%. So we are working on reforestation. In some places, we got floods. So we are working on flood-risk management.

Also we are working on the rural community. We are asking people to stay; not to leave their rural areas, because when they leave their rural areas, these areas will undergo desertification year after year. So we are trying to help them to stay in their regions, not to leave the region and come to the cities. And whenever they leave, no one will take care of the trees, no one will take care of the water.

In addition, we are working on water harvesting. Because sometimes we have a lot of rain, but this rain will go to the rivers and after the rivers, out to sea. Now we have a very big program to have hill lakes to collect the water for irrigation and for water as tap water. So this is in our plan. We have a five-year plan.

Professor Jonathan Foley, Director of the University of Minnesota, USA’s Institute for the Environment, estimates that to produce one kilogram of boneless beef, 30 kilograms of grain are needed. He also states that 35% of our planet’s agricultural lands are used to produce animal feed and that cattle and dairy farming occupy a staggering 3.38 billion hectares of land globally.

A Humane Society of the United States report entitled “The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Global Warming and Climate Change” concludes:
“The animal agriculture sector can also play a significant role in desertification due to overgrazing and trampling of rangelands by farm animals. Desertification tends to reduce the productivity and amount of vegetative cover, which then allows CO2 to escape. The FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] estimates that animal agriculture-induced desertification of pastures may release up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 per year.”

By ending this enormously harmful industry, we would spare our Earth a tremendous environmental burden and protect drylands from degrading and becoming permanent deserts.

There is no doubt that the livestock industry entails double cost and double pressure to the environment.

First of all, we have to really be very careful about all this industrialized meat, eggs, poultry and all these things. It’s not at all natural. If you are more vegetarian, you can feed more people.

Livestock raising for meat production is the single largest emitter of humane-produced methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. It has 72 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide measured over a 20-year period.

The problem with livestock is that they produce a lot of methane. They release a lot of carbon. So I think if we try to consume a more vegetable diet, rather than meat diet, I think that’s a good action. You can reduce the emissions of carbon.

Through a collaborative process and ultimately through legislation, following a few studies, we have now a government policy to reduce the number of livestock. The goal is to reduce the number of livestock from our arable lands by 3 million, and we need to replace the livelihood of farmers with alternative vocations.

A study by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found that the cost of lowering atmospheric greenhouse-gas levels by 2050 would be US$40-trillion. However the Agency concluded that with a worldwide change to a plant-based diet, the cost of mitigating global warming would be reduced by up to 80%.

I personally think it’s good to have plant-based diets. There’re a lot of complications due to an animal-based diet.

Vegan organic farming is of great benefit in enhancing soil fertility and retention, as it builds up the soil and enhances soil quality, thus reducing erosion from wind and water. Thus this method of cultivation is an excellent way to stem land degradation and desertification. As pesticides and herbicides are not used, vegan organic agriculture also helps to mitigate biodiversity loss. Moreover, the reduced consumption of surface and ground water with this farming technique minimizes soil salinization.

The Rodale Institute in the United States estimates that if all the world’s approximately 14 million square kilometers of tillable farmland were to be cultivated organically, the soil could store 40% of current CO2 emissions.

We didn’t start organic agriculture until recently, only in the last five years, and definitely this can create a big transformation in preventing land degradation and desertification.

We need to have certain subsidies, more like incentives, that will open new possibilities and increase the chance that people will convert from chemical agriculture to a greener agriculture.

We try really to spread the idea that organic, sustainable use of natural resources is the most important thing for fighting against climate change, and land degradation. What is sure is that using chemicals and fertilizer and herbicides is little by little polluting water and making the land and the soil unusable.

On a number of occasions Supreme Master Ching Hai has spoken about the dangers of desertification, as in this video message presented during a June 2009 climate change conference held in the Veracruz, Mexico.

According to the United Nations, desertification, which often results from felling too many trees and damages that occurs from such activities as cattle grazing, is affecting the well-being of more than 1.2 billion people in more than 100 countries at risk. Overgrazing by livestock, which occupies nearly a third of our Earth’s land surface worldwide, is a major cause of desertification and other damages, and is responsible for more than 50% of land erosion. Now, we must stop livestock grazing to protect our soil and protect our life.

We must be the solution and encourage others with all the convincing and supporting scientific, physical and moral data that is available to us so they do the same. Adopting a plant-based diet can halt as much as 80% of global warming, eradicate world hunger, stop war, promote peace, and it will free up the Earth’s water as well as many other precious resources, offering a lifeline for the planet and for humanity. In short, it will very quickly halt many of the global problems facing us right now.

Therefore, it is vital that we change our lifestyle – it’s very easy to do it – setting a noble example for others to follow, and do our part to bring to the public’s attention the urgent climate change issues and its solutions; the foremost being the vegan diet, to safeguard our precious planet. It is time to walk the talk, because there is not much time left now.

To close today’s program, we present a kind message from one of the Conference’s participants, His Excellency Gansukh Luimed, Mongolia's Minister of Environment and Tourism, to Supreme Master Ching Hai.

Well, many more people are doing good deeds for humankind. In my opinion, Master Ching Hai is one of the exemplary persons who is doing good deeds to make all humankind get enlightenment. May all of your work and all your good deeds be extended abundantly. Wishing you big success in your noble deeds which are dedicated to all humankind’s well-being. Thank you.

Our sincere thanks to all our interviewees for sharing your thoughts on halting desertification and to the parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification for your dedicated efforts to work together to address this urgent issue.

For more information on the 10th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, please visit www.UNCCD.int

Thank you for watching this week’s Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. May all lives be filled with compassion and grace from Heaven.

 Dr. Robert Goodland on Climate Change and the Destructive Livestock Industry 

 
  
 
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