Most school textbooks continue to recite the conventional wisdom that Europe does not have any deserts. They are out of date.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’.