Is there a difference between a 'desert' and a 'manmade desert'? - Green Musketeer blog

Is there a difference between a 'desert' and a 'manmade desert'?

People tend to think that all deserts are more or less the same. But there are big differences between them. Some deserts – for instance in Somalia - seem dry, but they aren’t. They get a lot of rain – up to 40 inches (1,000 mm) - it only falls in a very short period. Some deserts – like the North of Chile – never have rain. Some deserts have temperatures that are never below +32⁰F (0⁰C) – e.g. the Middle East - others – like the Los Monegros Desert in Zaragoza Spain – can go up to +113⁰F (+45⁰C) during Summer, but have Winter night temperatures as low as +5⁰F (-15⁰C!)

The biggest difference between deserts is actually their creation. A part of the deserts have a natural cause. The biggest part of deserts however, 5 billion acres (2 B ha’s), have a manmade cause.

During the last 500 years mankind has cut trees – and is still cutting trees - at an unimaginable scale. Whole countries are stripped within a generation. Mankind was and is able to change virgin forests into a manmade desert within 50 years. It happened on such a scale in Argentina, Mexico, USA, South Africa, etc. and it is happening nowadays in the whole of Borneo, Brazil, Central Africa, Canada and Indonesia.

All these areas were once green, then stripped, then many times goats, sheep and other grazing animals prevented saplings to grow. The sun got hold of the top soil, it dried out, and erosion started. Seeds could not germinate anymore and a new desert was “born”.

Maybe “degraded farmland” is a better description than “manmade desert”?

A good example is California: Only 100 years ago it was the beautiful garden of the USA. Nowadays it is the most beautiful degraded farmland area of the USA. The drought in California, and many other degraded farmland areas, is not going to be cyclical but structural. All manmade degraded farmlands have gone through the similar phase which California is experiencing today.

What happens now in Sao Paolo – Brazil – once the Amazon area with over 2.000 mm (80 inches) precipitation per year – is another good example of what we experience today. The Aral Sea and the Lake Chad are other great (!) examples of problems that occur caused by deforestation. All manmade degraded farmlands have gone through the same problems as nowadays the people of California, the Aral Sea, Lake Chad and Sao Paolo experience.

If nothing changes, Mankind will continue until no virgin forests are left anymore. But there is one very positive point here: we can be hopeful! Those degraded farmland areas are a lot less hot than we imagine, which makes it quite easy to replant them with trees.

Generally, in most parts of the world it is only hot during 6 months of the year – 180 days – and then only between 10am and 5pm. In total they are really hot during 1,260 hours of the 6,800 hours annually. So only about 20% of the time the temperature is really hot in degraded farmlands and 80% of the time the temperature is mostly very comfortable.

The problem for trees in degraded farmland areas is not at all the temperature. They can easily withstand the 20% hot period and enjoy the 80% period with generally moderate temperatures. In general degraded farmland areas also have a lot of precipitation. It is not the quantity of rain that is the problem. It is the peak of falling that is the problem: the period of drought is too long for seeds to germinate and root deep enough.

This is the problem that I analyzed and solved with the Groasis Technology: help the plant to get its roots over 10 feet (3 meters) deep in the first year, until it reaches humidity to grow on its own. If you reach this, they easily survive as they once used to grow there.

I usually give this example: “if trees once grew there, they can grow there again. If the area was small enough to cut, it is certainly small enough to replant.”

So with this blog I hope to inspire you to start a journey together with me and to reforest all degraded farmland areas of Mother Earth. Share my hope, share this blog, be a Green Musketeer and plant one tree per year!

Pieter Hoff, 
Green Musketeer

'Man made deserts' are different than natural deserts. We have to combat this by planting trees!