The Shrinking Earth'. What Are the Main Ecological Threats Responsible for This in the Third World?

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While the world shrinks owing to modem means of communication and transport, the land available for our habitation also shrinks, posing a problem which, if not attended to now, can threaten food production. Agricultural land is disappearing fast and soil is being eroded or exhausted. Deserts are marching and forests are disappearing. The world, particularly the Third World, is being threatened with food shortage and over-population and the ills associated with these. Many areas are in danger of desertification. The Sahara in about ten years has moved south by 100 kilometres. The Thar desert in Rajasthan in India is marching at the rate of half a mile a year. Deserts have eaten into the Horn of Africa and much of the south-west of the continent, and they are moving without interruption. It is said that an area bigger than Great Britain is disappearing every year. All this means that previous agricultural land is being turned to desert. Soil is being eroded, exhausted or blown away. It is believed that if the present trend continues there would be very little farm land per person by the year 2000.

The chief agent of this depletion is man who is indifferent to the sensitive and delicately balanced ecosystems. Land is laid waste by the impact of his activities. As population increases, cultivation is pushed to new areas, thereby accelerating the process of depletion of arable land. Pastoral nomads and their cattle are other agents of this destruction. The land system cannot maintain these animals and it breaks down under severe strain. This means that the animals of the pastoral nomads eat vegetation far more quickly than the earth can regenerate it.

Another factor responsible for this shrinking is deforestation. It has . been estimated that half the forest area in developing countries has been denuded between 1900 and 1965 for cultivation purposes. It is feared that, if Brazil's forests are cleared at the prevailing rate of 62,500 square miles a year, the...
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