V RaptureChrist Newsletter
May 1, 2005

Earth Turning into a Desert?

T his year Spain had a record drought. 60% less rain fell than normal. The winter was very dry, and there were no April showers. In fact, most of Spain is marginal land, most of the rivers are dry, and there are places with existing sand dunes. If action is not taken, it might soon become like Northern Africa. 

Desertification is a process by which marginal land becomes increasingly arid and unable to support human populations due to lack of rain.  Other problems soon follow.  For example, the now barren land becomes parched and the dry soil blows away in the wind.  This leads to loss of topsoil, and it creates a dust bowl.  Sand dunes cover cities and highways. 

The problem of desertification has been with us for  thousands of years.  Roman senator Cicero spoke of the destruction of the prime north African forests and their replacement by barren wasteland - a desert now known as the Sahara.

But how did things get so bad?

The problem is that greedy men cut down the forests and replaced them with grasslands. Later they brought in sheep which mowed the grass down to its roots leaving the soil barren.

Trees, due to their dense root system, guarantee protection against soil erosion. When they are cut down, the land changes.  It becomes drier and less fertile.  Trees pull water and minerals from deep underground to the surface.  A forest acts like an air conditioning system keeping the area cool in the hot summer.  The trees slow down the wind and prevent raindrops from hitting the surface of the soil converting them into a fine mist.  Also, the surface acts as a sponge made of leaves and humus that absorbs water for the hot summer months.

Forest land slowly becoming a desert due to deforestation.
Former forested mountain near Barcelona,  Spain

All these mechanisms are gone when a forest is cut down.  Soil washes off hillsides leaving behind bare rock; then silt chokes rivers, streams, and even corals in the ocean.  Haiti is a very good example. It used to be prime forest 500 years ago when Columbus came to America; but not anymore. The mountains are showing their bones.  Where the land is flat, the dried out soil, no longer anchored by trees, blows away in the wind.

We have the makings of a desert.

But why does the sky go dry?

Trees cause clouds to form because they send small aerosols into the air as well as water from evapotranspiration. Using evapotranspiration, one tree can release into the atmosphere forty gallons of water every day. This cools the forest and seeds clouds.

When the forest is gone, the cycle is broken. The hot dry ground bakes under the hot summer sun and this heat causes a lens of hot air which prevents clouds from forming.  In fact,. this hot air rises pushing away oceanic clouds, and the ground is so hot that it quickly evaporates any rain that may fall before it can percolate into the ground.  In the case of a flash flood, the water quickly washes down gullies to streams and away from plants that desperately need it.

Preventing Desertification

How do we prevent drylands from turning into a desert?

The drylands must be protected by avoiding the processes that cause desertification, such as overgrazing by domestic animals, cultivation of annual crops, burning of chaff and brush, and indiscriminate aerial irrigation.

Grazing animals destroy the delicate root system of grasses exposing the bare earth. They also nibble seedling trees and prevent forest from forming. Of grazing animals the worst are sheep and goats.

The ground cannot be plowed.  Plowing destroys the root system that anchors the soil in place and exposes the bare soil to erosion from wind and rain.  Therefore, annual grasses such as wheat, barley, oats, and corn cannot be planted, instead trees must be planted.  

Marginal land must be planted with perennial trees instead of annual crops. Examples are date palms, olives, figs, and almonds.  

By planting cover crops such as the deep rooted legume alfalfa, the soil between the trees can be stabilized.  Alfalfa can be harvested as hay and it will keep the soil in place while the trees grow besides adding nitrogen to the soil.

Any fallen limbs and brush under the trees cannot be burned. These must be converted into mulch to prevent loss of moisture from the forest floor.

When irrigating, It is important not to spray water into the air, as most will be lost due to evaporation; instead drip irrigation should be used so a small quantity of water is supplied directly to the taproot of each young tree.  As the trees get older and the roots penetrate deeply into the soil, they will not need irrigation anymore.

In order to establish the trees certain things need to be done.  A big hole with good earth should be used for each seedling.  The bottom of the hole should be filled with water and then the plant should be put in and its roots set with the good earth.  Finally the top of the soil around the seedling should be mulched with straw or any other plant material and this mulch must be covered with rocks to prevent the wind from blowing it away.

Stone fences can protect the seedling trees from dry winds; collars around the trees trunks can protect the trees from being nibbled by wild animals.

An example was given to us by God who planted TREES in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 2:8-9
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every TREE that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil..

God says that the desert will bloom in the millennium.

Isaiah 35:1-7
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

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