Desertification is a prisoner of history: An essay on why young scientists should care

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<jats:p>Since its origins, the concept of desertification has been shrouded in controversy and ambiguity. As a result, no single definition of the term has been acceptable; there is no agreement on its extent or seriousness; and the solutions proposed are often disparate and counterproductive. This essay suggests all of this is due to the concept of desertification being a permanent ‘prisoner of history’, a historical process led by the United Nations Convention on Desertification (UNCCD). In this essay, I describe why the prisoner of history narrative applies to the concept of desertification. To do this, I review the historical events that built a metaphorical prison for desertification; show why definitions of the term ‘desertification’ are products of this prison; describe how so much misunderstanding and confusion in this field has led to real, negative consequences; and lastly, provide recommendations to young scientists as to how to avoid becoming incarcerated in this prison.</jats:p>






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Reynolds, James F (n.d.). Desertification is a prisoner of history: An essay on why young scientists should care. Ecosistemas, 30(3). pp. 2302–2302. 10.7818/ecos.2302 Retrieved from

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James F. Reynolds

Professor Emeritus

Integrated assessment of complex human-environmental systems; Land degradation and desertification in global drylands; Conceptual frameworks and models to advance the science of dryland development

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