40% and Rising

A United Nations study finds that 40 per cent of the world's arable farmland is now degraded. This undermines food security for the planet's burgeoning population now closing in on eight billion. The main culprit is industrial agriculture.

The world’s ability to feed a growing population is being put at risk by the rising damage, most of which is caused by food production. Women in the developing world are particularly badly affected as they often lack legal titles to land and can be thrown off it if conditions are tough.

Degraded land – which has been depleted of natural resources, soil fertility, water, biodiversity, trees or native vegetation – is found all over our planet. Many people think of degraded land as arid desert, rainforests maimed by loggers or areas covered in urban sprawl, but it also includes apparently “green” areas that are intensely farmed or stripped of natural vegetation.

Growing food on degraded land becomes progressively harder as soils rapidly reach exhaustion and water resources are depleted. Degradation also contributes to the loss of plant and animal species and can exacerbate the climate crisis by reducing the Earth’s ability to absorb and store carbon.

Who knew? Plenty of people, especially the folks at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and they've been warning us of what's coming for several years to little or no discernable effect.

Worsening soils degradation is just part of the threat to global food security.  Unreliable precipitation manifesting in severe droughts or floods and rising temperatures compound the problem and, like most early onset climate impacts, it's the poorest and most vulnerable nations whose people are taking it in the neck.

The latitudinally advantaged, industrialized nations have a powerful advantage - money.  That gives us first dibs on the dwindling bounty even within the hardest hit countries whose people grow fruit and vegetables they cannot afford for export.

Comment Response:

Hi, Owen. As the world, Canada included, is drawn into uncharted and perilous waters, the greatest threat to our future must be our indifference.


  1. The Irish migration to Canada and other countries was a cautionary tale, Mound. We have ignored the lesson it should have taught us.


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