Rapid Farmland Degradation To Force Hundreds Of Millions To Migrate Over Next 3 Decades, Study Finds

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Hundreds of millions of people are likely to be forced to migrate over just the next 3 decades due to rapidly deteriorating farmland productivity in many regions — caused by modern chemical- and fertilizer-heavy farming practices, overgrazing, deforestation, flash-flood events, and increasing drought — a new study has found.

As it stands, several billion people around the world are dependent upon farmland that is experiencing nutrient depletion and erosion, often largely as a result of the abandonment of traditional regional agricultural/food systems over the last century.

[Some people may object here, and state that lots of people used to starve to death, and that things are thus better now, due to the “green revolution.” Yeah, people did used to starve occasionally, and they will again in large numbers before too long. Short-term “benefits” at the expense of hard-won local knowledge and systems isn’t something I’m going to applaud. Traditional systems in many parts of the world had a large amount of leeway built into them as regards crop diversity, genetic diversity within crops, etc., it seems to me that modern agricultural systems and crops are overspecialized to the point of being suicidal.]

The new report found that land degradation and climate change could see crop yields drop by at least half in some regions by as soon as 2050. As a result of falling crop yields, and increasing water scarcity, conflicts between various affected people and groups of people are of course going to increase and intensify.

“Decreasing land productivity also makes societies more vulnerable to social instability — particularly in dryland areas, where years with extremely low rainfall have been associated with an increase of up to 45% in violent conflict,” commented study author Robert Scholes, in a statement.

“In just over 3 decades from now, an estimated 4 billion people will live in drylands,” Scholes continued. “By then it is likely that land degradation, together with the closely related problems of climate change, will have forced 50-700 million people to migrate.”

Reuters provides more:

“The report was written by more than 100 experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a global scientific group. The body said that as degraded land becomes less productive — through deforestation, overgrazing, flash floods or drought — people, many of them poor farmers, are forced to migrate to cities or abroad.

“And, it warned, when arid, semi-dry or dryland areas degrade further, deserts spread — which means lower crop yields…Increasing demand for food has led to the rapid expansion and unsustainable management of crop and grazing lands, which are key factors in worsening land quality, the report said.

“It said the problem had reached ‘critical levels’ in many areas, with wetlands particularly badly affected.”

Something that might not be immediately apparent, but which is very important to note, is that while climate change is a large driver of land degradation, in some respects it’s also the result of land degradation. Soil erosion, deforestation, industrial style agriculture (strip-mining of the soil, whether done “organically” or not), and overgrazing are major sources of potent greenhouse gases.

As noted by IPBES chairman Robert Watson in a statement: “Land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change are 3 different faces of the same central challenge: the increasingly dangerous impact of our choices on the health of our natural environment.”

Given the vast amount of biodiversity loss that has occurred during just the last few decades, the vast amount of persistent chemical and radioactive poisons that have been dumped freely into the wider environment over just the last century, and the vast waste of very-slow-to-accumulate topsoil and slow-to-form fossil fuels and concentrated mineral reserves, that is probably greatly understating the matter.

To put it simply, the trajectory of the modern world is one with a death-wish.

If the world of 2100 isn’t going to be a poisoned, topsoil-depleted, depopulated, permanently-at-war, mass-migration-littered caricature of what it is now, then vast changes would have to occur within just the next few years.

On a related note, as I reported recently, the relatively limited climate/resource/water-related migrations to date have been accompanied by a surge in human slavery and trafficking. As the coming mass migrations get well and truly underway during the next 2-4 decades, expect to see (or perhaps only hear about through grapevine, but not openly reported on) a surge in human slavery in some parts of the world.

Alternately, desperate people are often quite willing to work for peanuts (or just a sandwich and a cot), so the trend towards increasing slavery may be short-lived due to that reality.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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