TechWithPurpsoe News and Opinion plus World Environment Day
Trees, drought & desertification
In today’s TechWithPurpose news summary, I’m including something extra. For your regular recap on some of the past week’s important TechWithPurpose news, scroll down, but if you fancy something a little different today, keep reading …
Hopefully you didn’t miss that this weekend was the 47th annual #WorldEnvironmentDay? I decided to celebrate the day by tending to our vegetable patch and planting some tree seedlings with my youngest daughter. Whilst this was tremendous for our health and helping educate our children with a few basic sustainability practices, as the torrential rain started to pour down, I started thinking about deserts…. (btw, don’t forget to register for the updates and plant your own tree for free here)
Rain rain go away, come again another day … please!
In a previous discussion with a representative from the UN’s Forest and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), I learned that one of the biggest threats to vegetation, in particular forests, in Europe is drought. An article published in Nature during 2020 cites that the excess forest mortality in Europe is correlated to increasing drought in the region.
This is one of those conundrums that really perpetuated the anti-climate change campaigners in previous decades. If the world is getting hotter and drier, how come it seems so much colder and wetter? I’m not going to go into the details of the science, but there are two human factors to this argument that I have witnessed that I will simply point to -> a human propensity to apply more weight to immediate circumstances and experiences, and, either the lack of data or data overload when it comes to thinking beyond one’s immediate surroundings.
So, in an effort to deliberately expand my views and opinions, instead of dwelling on the downpour that threatened to wash away my newly planted seedlings, I tried to think of something opposite – deserts.
Desertification in Europe
Living in Europe, deserts are a thing I associate with other continents, but like I discovered when digging into wildfires, Europe is far from immune to these types of climate risks.
“(Desertification leads to) diminished food production, soil infertility, decreases in the land’s natural resilience, and reduced water quality. Projections on climate change in Europe show that the risk of desertification is increasing. […] This phenomenon is extending northwards.”EU Special Report No 33, 2018In 2018 the EU concluded that desertification in Europe was indeed “a growing threat in need of more action.”
Sadly, the change in climate isn’t the only influence here – other human activities are apparently also at play, too. In this article researchers claim that the Volvic region in central France is at risk of running dry due to the over-export of bottled Volvic mineral water. In fact, the water flow has fallen from 470 litres per second as measured in 1927, to a modern day dribble of just 50 litres per second.
Christian Amblard, an expert with France’s CNRS research institute in Clermont-Ferrand blames a reduction in the regions flora and fauna on this significantly reduced water, also warning it is the beginning of desertification in central Europe.
Global Deserts, Drylands
Globally, drylands (which includes deserts, but also other less parched classifications such as semi-desert, grassland, and rangelands) accounted for 41.3% of the planet’s surface area in when the UN wrote this report. 44% of the world cultivated areas exist across these landmasses, with 1.7% of the global population calling the most arid of these home, and a further 4.1% living in semi-desert conditions. In fact, one in three of the world’s populations live in drylands, and as the rate of desertification increases, this percentage is only growing.
“12 million hectares of fertile land perish to desertification annually according to United Nations. That is 2000 football fields of fertile soil turning to sand every hour.”
As with forest fires, the loss of biodiversity across the drylands associated with diversification is a double-whammy. Healthy lands and soils act as a carbon sink, extracting carbon from the air and storing it in the ground, so as more healthy lands are lost to desertification, less carbon can be absorbed by them thereby helping perpetuate the crisis.
But what if these arid places could be re-cultivated and returned to healthy, productive lands?
This nanotech startup from Norway seems to think it has an answer.
Nanotech Clay Makes Deserts Productive
Desert Control have developed a unique type of clay that can be sprayed on to barren, arid lands to convert them back to soils that can support crops.
Their Liquid Nano Clay technology can allegedly speed the process of converting degraded soil and sands into fertile land from 7-12 years to just a mere 7 hours! Additionally, the make up of the resulting clay-soil requires 50% less water to maintain and can lead to an increased crop yield of up to 62%.
They achieve this by splitting clay into nano particles, which can then percolate through the sand, creating a sponge-like substance which absorbs and holds both water and nutrients in the new hybrid sand-clay soil.
75% of all freshwater is used in agriculture, as such, if Desert Control can achieve their 30-50% claimed water savings, whilst also increasing crop yield by almost two-thirds, then this surprising technology could have a significant impact on several of the global challenges we are facing.
I find this fascinating because not only can it be used in lands already degraded beyond the point of crop viability, but also can be used in some of the areas mentioned above to help slow the pace of desertification and stretch our scarce water supplies further, more efficiently.
Find out more about them in this CNN feature:
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