African Deserts

CtopherP at CtopherP at
Fri Jul 9 16:25:43 EDT 1999

In a message dated 7/9/99 10:25:47 AM, you wrote:

<<John Schinnerer wrote:
>>So who's mis-managing, and why?

A recent report on climate modeling suggested that African
Desert expansion is due to many external factors and local
activity is a very small part of the problem.  Mostly it is
due to climate change and a global view might be most useful.
If this is true then one thing we can do is improve our local
ecology and change our agricultural systems/industrial

I don't think this suggests we should ignore immediate problems
in Africa, just that our local activities may be more connected
to Africa than we expect.  The problem could be "us".>>

I would challenge the findings of these kinds of reports. Allan Savory, in 
the video I mentioned earlier, takes on this point of blaming world 
desertification on climate change. He gives the example of southern africa 
where there were many dutch towns with names like Springbockfontain, etc. 
Basically the name of an animal and the word fountain. There were springs all 
over the landscape, huge native grasses, and tons of game too. In 200 or so 
years now there's almost no grass, very little game, and no springs: 
desertification. And there's clear rainfall data; it rains just as little and 
just as sporadically as 200 years ago. 

In that publication of the Soil Conservation Service from 50 years ago called 
something like "Soil and Civilization over 7000 Years," (I assume someone 
will give the correct source and name of the author here since I can't seem 
to remember it) the author travels to the middle east and looks at land 
degradation that has happened on a massive scale. In one event in Jordan he's 
talking with a herder who is telling about when he was a kid he would stand 
on the ridge that they are sitting on and he couldn't see the animals below 
because of the grass. Now it's all barren. The author asks why and the herder 
says that it just doesn't rain the way it used to. But when he checks the 
rainfall data, which this place has for a considerable history, the rainfall 
hasn't changed one bit. 

What's important is the effectiveness of rainfall. I saw this with painful 
clarity in my last 12 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Most of the rain that 
fell was simply unavailable to plants, either because it ran off, was 
evaporated or for various other reasons. So plants are living on 3-4 inches 
of rainfall a year at best, not 12 in an average year. 

So, the core of my challenge is that climate change may be a factor (and may 
be even more of a factor in the future) but if the top inch of soil is unable 
to absorb moisture, it doesn't matter how nicely it rains, it's ineffective. 

Just my $.02 worth,
Christopher Peck
Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

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