I’m having a super Spain-Day here at the Guiri Dispatches.

Found a few snippets about Spain preparing a large anti-desertification program. Some of the facts from the International Herald Tribune:

  • They want to plant 45 million trees between 2009 and 2012
  • It’ll cost about €90 million
  • “Adena, Spain’s branch of the World Wildlife Fund, says nearly 30 percent of the country is in the process of becoming desert because of global warming.”

That last bit intrigued me – because desertification was a problem before anyone was talking about global warming and I read, years ago, long before I came to live here, that desertification here was largely caused by the destruction of topsoil due to irresponsible agricultural practices, specifically the grazing of sheep for many centuries. (I think I read that in John Hooper’s The New Spaniards but not sure).

Another little blurb doesn’t mention causes, and I started to wonder if maybe, the “global warming” thing isn’t just a ploy to try to tie an environmental problem into a politically trendy issue. I hate unsubstantiated claims like that one.

Then I found this, much more informative article, in the Telegraph, linking desertification to the production of olive oil (and the increased consumption of the oil which drives the market). Now this starts to make a little more sense. For those who don’t know, although most people associate olive oil with Italy, Spain actually produces more, and a lot of “Italian Olive Oil” is actually made from Spanish olives. All you have to do is drive around Andalucía – these people are waaaaaay into their olives.

The Telegraph discusses an article in The Ecologist magazine:

The magazine says trees are densely packed, planted in massive irrigated lowland plains and harvested by machines that shake the trunks, which uses more water and chemicals than traditional farms on upland terraces.

It says: “To meet this new appetite mass-market brands are produced intensively, so supermarkets can sell it in high volumes at lower prices.

“Demand for cheap, mass-produced oil is making it a struggle for the smaller, traditional farms to be economically viable.”

Between 2000 and 2005, UK olive oil sales have risen by 39 per cent and more money is spent on it than all other cooking oils.

A World Wildlife Fund report from 2001 said the more intensive plantations are of “little or no conservation value, and create environmental problems – desertification, pollution from agrichemicals, depletion of water resources.”

Guy Beaufoy, a consultant on agricultural and environmental policies in Europe said the situation was “an environmental catastrophe”…..

An EU study on the industry added: “Soil erosion is probably the most serious environmental problem associated with olive farming.”

And this is something that countries like Spain and Italy have been dedicated to for centuries! Maybe millenia! (I’m not up on my ancient agricultural history). Perhaps this could also explain why the area called the Fertile Crescent now looks anything but fertile. I think it’s too bad that the IHT would make some random, unsupported link to “global warming” when the answer may just be agriculture – wasn’t spicy enough for them?

Ha! And then I find this – So the IHT cites the WWF as making the connection to global warming, yet, the first link I checked when I googled cites the WWF as primarily linking desertification to agriculture, and their own website links it to various irresponsible uses of land, no mention of global warming.

Obviously, no one at IHT had as phenomenal an intern as I was at CNN. 🙂

(And then she asks herself – why don’t I have these people’s jobs?)