This thinning road-cum-field IV

Alarm bells are going to continue ringing for a good while longer on a whole range of issues. And they should – news about the thinning road – the path into the future that is increasingly constrained – is alarming. Here’s Ian Sample, the science correspondent writing in today’s Guardian:

To keep up with the growth in human population, more food will have to be produced worldwide over the next 50 years than has been during the past 10,000 years combined, the experts said.

But in many countries a combination of poor farming practices and deforestation will be exacerbated by climate change to steadily degrade soil fertility, leaving vast areas unsuitable for crops or grazing.

Competition over sparse resources may lead to conflicts and environmental destruction, the scientists fear.

The warnings came as researchers from around the world convened at a UN-backed forum in Iceland on sustainable development to address the organisation’s millennium development goals to halve hunger and extreme poverty by 2015.

The researchers will use the meeting to call on countries to impose strict farming guidelines to ensure that soils are not degraded so badly they cannot recover.

“Policy changes that result in improved conservation of soil and vegetation and restoration of degraded land are fundamental to humanity’s future livelihood,” said Zafar Adeel, director of the international network on water, environment and health at the UN University in Toronto and co-organiser of the meeting.

“This is an urgent task as the quality of land for food production, as well as water storage, is fundamental to future peace. Securing food and reducing poverty … can have a strong impact on efforts to curb the flow of people, environmental refugees, inside countries as well as across national borders,” he added.

The UN millennium ecosystem assessment ranked land degradation among the world’s greatest environmental challenges, claiming it risked destabilising societies, endangering food security and increasing poverty.

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