Milan 25 August 2015
Held on the 26th of August at the Italian Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015, the Convention “Drought, land degradation and desertification in the World” was both a workshop and a debate between scientists, politicians and civil societies on one of the major crises our Planet is currently facing: desertification.
Organized by the National Research Council, in collaboration with the Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), the Council for Agricultural Research and Agricultural Economics Analysis (CREA) and Finmeccanica-Telespazio, the event was attended by exponents of the academic and scientific worlds, representatives of the above Institutions and from the world of Industry, and was an occasion for discussing and analyzing the desertification process itself and the strategies for contrasting it.
By the end of this century, forecasts talk of a significant reduction in rainfall in the Mediterranean basin, above all during the summer months, and an increase in temperature of 4 – 6 degrees, and the combination of these two factors will clearly lead to increase desertification. What emerged from the debate was the need for a systemic approach to safeguard entire ecosystems and bring the soil and the land in general back into ecological balance. And the time left for us to implement these actions is getting shorter by the year.
In this scenario, the Mediterranean countries are amongst the most vulnerable. Not simply for their ecological balance, but also in terms of their human balance, the most striking example of which being the immigration we are witnessing today. Many of the people arriving on our shores are not escaping war, but territories that have been rendered uninhabitable by desertification. In a nutshell, they are environmental refugees. And their numbers are destined to increase exponentially in the near future.
Deserts account for over 41% of the Earth’s surface, and are inhabited by more than 2 billion people. 72% of these deserts are in the so-called ‘emerging countries’, and so the correlation desert – poverty seems pretty clear. As for Italy, the latest reports say that around 21% of the national territory is at risk of desertification, and around 41% of this area is obviously in the south. These are startling figures that depict a problem that is increasingly dramatic but scarcely talked about.
Through a wide range of integrated capacities, which include remote sensing systems and sensors (optical, radar, multispectral and hyperspectral) and the platforms on which they are mounted (satellites, aircraft, drones), Finmeccanica already has a good number of technological solutions for contrasting the phenomenon of desertification and for safeguarding our Planet. In particular, Finmeccanica-Telespazio has been operating for many years in the field of satellite observation through their subsidiary e-GEOS (ASI/Telespazio). In every area at risk, the use of satellite remote sensing provides local administrators and authorities with objective tools for more effective, multidisciplinary territorial governance, which is fundamental for mitigating the impact of climate change and combating the degradation and desertification of the land.