Growing food entails the use of fertilizer and irrigation systems and results in land clearing. These “side effects” of agriculture can lead to “tipping points” which include desertification, salinization, water degradation, and changes in climate due to altered water flow. The UN reports that 50 million people could be driven from their homes within the next 10 years by encroaching deserts, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Asia.

As human populations shift to more meat-heavy diets, trade of agricultural products increases, and demand for biofuels grows, the pressure on agricultural systems is mounting. Tipping points occur when an ecosystem is overwhelmed by the demands placed on it and can no longer function the way it did before. In other words, it loses its resiliency which ultimately can lead to land that is rendered useless for growing crops?or turned into a desert.

In BBC News, Matt McGrath reports that climate change is making desertification “the greatest environmental challenge of our times.” One-third of the earth?s population could become victims of this.

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