Deserts on the Move

According to estimates of the United Nations, more than 2.6 billion people in 110 countries are directly affected by progressive desertification. Deserts now cover more than a third of the entire surface of the earth, thus 65% of arable lands (land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops).

More than three billion cattle, sheep and goats chomp their way through pastures faster than they can be regenerated. This 2-part environmental documentary series shows how desertification is changing the balance of the earth and affecting two continents in particular: Asia and Europe.

Episode 1: Asia

Most people do not think of China as a desert nation – and yet it is among the world’s largest. A staggering third of China’s land area, 2.5 million square kilometres, is useless sand.

Incredibly, only 7 % of Chinese land feeds a fifth of the world’s population, but this makes China particularly vulnerable. China’s soil erosion is the most serious of any country in the world, and an estimated 400 million people are now being moved in order to secure more arable land for farming. Plans are already underway to move these people into the urban centres of China by 2030.

Episode 2: Europe

Most school textbooks continue to recite the conventional wisdom that Europe does not have any deserts. This episode shows how they are very much out of date.

Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece are four EU countries that are already so badly affected that they have joined the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). A fifth of Spanish land is so degraded that it is turning into desert, and in Italy tracts of land in the south are now abandoned and have also been declared desert.

But the problem is not confined to these four countries. Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Romania and Russia have all reported signs of desertification – and in the Ukraine 41% of agricultural land is at risk of erosion.

In 2000, the United Nations published a report in which it stated ‘the first stages of serious soil degradation were being noted in parts of Europe and 150 million hectares are at a high risk of erosion. Deterioration is at a critical point in Mediterranean countries’.

Even in Iceland we’ll take a look at the greatest deserts in Europe. Since the Vikings once deforested the land and brought sheep to Iceland, long term environmental damage caused the beginning of extreme erosion and the loss of meters of fertile soil.

Although many countries have started governing towards greener environments in newer times, restoring our planets environment is far from over.

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Deserts on the Move
  • Info
  • Release date2007
  • Full runtime
  • Director(s)Ingo Herbst
  • Production companyMede Cine Medienproduktion