Human ingenuity and technology have impacted the planet in detrimental ways.
What humans have accomplished in the short time we’ve inhabited this planet has been nothing but amazing. We’ve gone from being nomadic groups to huge civilizations to a global community. We have technology to thank for this advancement and the ability to make life easier.
However, during our evolution and technological advancement, we’ve also had some negative impacts on the planet. In our desire for readily available food, water and energy, we’ve caused land degradation, which will have major impacts on the planet and the future.
What is Land Degradation?
Environmental Management Agency defines ‘land degradation’ as:
Land degradation is any change in the condition of the land which reduces its productive potential. It is the deterioration in the quality of land, its topsoil, vegetation, and/or water resources, caused usually by excessive or inappropriate exploitation.”
There isn’t one cause of land degradation, but a variety of different impacts that occur throughout time and around the world. The largest cause of land degradation is agriculture, with both crops and livestock taking their toll on the land. Other factors that contribute negative impacts to the earth include soil pollution, loss of wetlands and the introduction of new species into an environment — whether intentional or not.
The results of these issues on the land and the environment include loss of soil fertility, soil erosion, changes in the soil structure, plant cover being lost and water loss that leads to an area becoming a desert (‘desertification’), among other issues. These impacts aren’t only a problem for the land, they affect the creatures living on it, including humans.
Impacts of Land Degradation
Without the ability to grow food or access fresh water, humanity will fade away and die. We depend on the land for our survival, and so do a lot of other animals that live on this planet. The more land we destroy, the more species that die in the process – and not to sound like an alarmist, but we may be one of them.“No doubt, humans will do a lot of damage before we ultimately destroy ourselves. But life will continue without humans. New forms of intelligence will emerge long after this human experiment is over.” - Zeena Schreck, Beatdom #11:… Click To Tweet
It’s not only agriculture that affects the land. The human population increases year after year, and we need places to live and work. With only a finite amount of space, we expand our cities so that we have enough space to survive. In the process, we displace native inhabitants and bring garbage and non-native species with us, which can lead to the death and destruction of biodiversity.
But moving into new areas or clearing forests and wetland for pastures or agricultural fields isn’t the only impact we have on the land. Our need and desire for energy have led to land being stripped so we can mine the biofuels. The use of pesticides and herbicides has contaminated the water and soil, and cutting down forests has stripped the planet of a natural way to absorb CO2 in the atmosphere.
Billions of people will be affected by Land Degradation
It doesn’t matter how developed our society is or how different we are from developing nations and countries, land degradation has and will continue to affect everyone on the planet. Those who live in the developing nations will feel the effects first, which will lead to mass migrations to other places in the world where resources aren’t so scarce.
As populations become denser, violence will increase. When resources become less available, fighting among the population will increase — around the globe. Everyone will be affected by a shortage of food and potable water. If there isn’t enough land to grow the food we need to survive we will have to decide who is worthy of the scant supplies, and that won’t turn out good for anyone.The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard. —Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day Click To Tweet
Reversing the process
With the amount of damage done to the planet, it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are ways to reverse the effects of land degradation, and the sooner we implement a plan, the easier it will be to change the planet for the better. We can reverse a lot of the damage we’ve done through restoration and reclamation of land, using erosion-prevention reseeding techniques, refilling wetlands and urban planning.
Other ways to reverse land degradation include protecting the soils so that nutrients aren’t stripped out of the ground, reclaiming the land after mining activities, reducing pollution in wetlands and restoring wetlands, even if that means constructing new wetland sites.
For the plan to work, it will take everyone working together for the greater good. It will require everyone on earth recognizing that there is an issue and doing their part to correct the problem. Earth is the only home we have, and if we destroy it, we destroy ourselves. Humans have the capacity for great things, and we should use that capacity to improve the planet for ourselves and the other inhabitants that don’t have much of a say in what happens to this world. It’s the least we can do to ensure our survival and the survival of the planet.
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