18.06.2018 |

Consumers can contribute to halt land degradation, UNCCD says

A third of the planet’s land is already severely degraded (Photo: CC0)

Land degradation is undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people worldwide but we can all contribute to avoid this threat by supporting sustainable land management. This is the message of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification celebrated on June 17. “Everything we produce and consume has a land footprint. A bicycle requires 3.4 square meters of land. Ten square meters of land are used to produce a laptop. Producing one kilogram of beef takes 22 square meters,” said Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary. She stressed that few people think about this land footprint “because the losses are not visible – or at least not accounted for – in the products we consume.”

People are often using land as if it were a limitless resource, the UN agency said. This negligence threatens food and water supply, biodiversity and even human security itself. Short-sighted economic gains such as land grabbing, unplanned urban sprawl, unsustainable agriculture and over-consumption lead to unsustainable land use, which eventually causes degradation and loss of critical ecosystem services. As a result, consumption of the Earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years and a third of the planet’s land is already severely degraded. This is causing serious problems for the 1.3 billion people, mostly in developing countries, who depend on this degrading land for their livelihoods – jobs, incomes, food, water, energy, and medicines.

But the UNCCD highlighted that changes in behaviour and the adoption of more efficient planning and practices can guarantee that sufficient land resources are available long-term to meet our ambitions for and to provide sustainable livelihoods. “Every one of us has a role to play,” said Barbut in her message for the day. “Farmers can invest in smart agriculture that leads to higher yields despite a reduction in inputs like pesticides. Consumers can spend their money on organic and fairly traded products to avoid land degradation. There are many more ways to invest in land wisely,” she stressed. “Imagine, what would happen if the world’s over 7 billion consumers committed, every year, to just one lifestyle change that will support the provision of goods from sustainably managed land.” She called on consumers worldwide to make choices that reward land users whose practices protect the land from degradation. “When you choose what to eat, what to wear or what to drive, think about how your choice impacts the land – for better or for worse.”

Land degradation also plays an important role in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 on Life on Land calls for a resolve to halt and reverse land degradation, with a target to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world by 2030. The UNCCD stressed that our small decisions every day can transform the world. “In 2030, when the international community evaluates its achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, you can point to positive changes that you have contributed in favor of present and future generations.” (ab)

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