The changing face of the natural world is becoming more of an issue by the day. We rely on the earth to provide us with our sustenance yet we find ourselves struggling with our increasing demand and the earth’s finite capacity to support it.
As we continue with our traditional agricultural methods, the effects we are having can be seen on the changing face of the earth. As can be seen by the map below, published by the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Center, there is a significant portion of the earth’s surface that is very vulnerable to increased desertification, the degradation of arid land due to climate change and human activity.
In a message on the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan states that “Desertification is an issue affecting 1/5th of the world’s population and more than 100 countries.”
Basically, due to the changing climate conditions, whether directly caused by our misuse or not, arid land throughout the globe is becoming drier, hotter, less fertile, and thus unable to sustain our needs to cultivate it and feed our growing populations.
Now rather than focusing on this as a negative problem, we are presented with the opportunity to do something remarkable and positive with it. This is our chance to reverse the damage that we have done to our planet with our overuse and disregard for it’s capacity, while empowering people to feed themselves with simple methods and appropriate technology.
There is much fundamental knowledge that can be found by recognizing and studying the indigenous people’s agricultural practices of old. The intimate understanding of a specific area’s growing conditions and requirements can be found in studying their methods, and it is often lost information as culture’s and history fade away.
There is also the opportunity to use the natural properties of plants in combination with conscious ecosystem design to produce gardens that both fulfill our need for food while reconstructing, and regenerating the natural, healthy, strong and supportive ecosystems that existed before we came along. This is where our true opportunity lies in actually fixing our problems of global hunger AND degenerating land. By taking a new approach to agriculture and our use of the earth beneath our feet, and by combining all of our knowledge and expertise to design our gardens and farms to produce symbiotically with the earth, we can truly reverse our current course and restore our lands to their former fertility.
I will end this introduction with a clip of a permaculture project in the Middle East that reversed the effects of traditional agriculture and the damage that it brought, while producing food crops in an area that was deemed barren.
Look for more postings soon about specific methods and systems that can easily be used to reverse the effects of desertification and turn barren ground fertile…