Drought – the world’s dominant natural hazard

Drought_Swimming_HoleBy Troy Sternberg

Texas and Australia are experiencing extreme droughts that have not been seen for a half century or longer. Amid much press coverage government efforts to mitigate drought range from no water for gardens to aid, emergency loans and town prayer services (yes, in the U.S.). Drought is the world’s dominant natural hazard, thus can be no surprise in dryland regions. The severe impact comes from human efforts that are often inappropriate to the environment – farming in the desert, large populations where there are limited resources, the desire for swimming pools and green lawns in scrub land. The last century has seen myriad attempts by man to conquer the desert. Great effort and expense have made miracles happen, but these are temporary victories dependent on ever-increasing external inputs for success. For long-term survival in the desert we should look to the indigenous dwellers – camel, cactus, or lizard – and treat water as a scarce resource, maximize efficiency, and limit extraneous effort. Until this is learned human extravagance in arid lands will persist and the physical and economic effects of drought will continue to alarm us. Nature makes drought endemic, it is we who must adapt – the sooner the better.

world Read more in The Economist

world Read more in The New Zealand Herald

world Pressurised pastoralism in South Gobi, Mongolia: what is the role of drought? By Troy Sternberg, Nicholas Middleton and David Thomas Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers

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