SINCE THE mid-1970s, the United Nations (UN) has considered desertification a significant environmental problem involving high economic, societal, and human costs. The UN’s Conference on Desertification, held in 1977, outlined an action plan over a 20-year period that, unfortunately, did little to change the course of desertification. The definition of desertification itself is controversial. In 1991, the UN Environment Program defined it as “land degradation in arid, semi-arid, and dry subhumid areas, resulting mainly from adverse human impact.” In 1992, the UN convened the Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to draw up formal measures that included setting up a Committee on Desertification to review reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, preserving biodiversity, and protecting international waters. The official draft of the UNCED report expanded the definition of desertification to: “land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors including climatic variations and human activities.” The World Bank defines desertification as “a process of sustained decline of the biological productivity of arid and semiarid land; the end result is desert of skeletal soil that is irrecuperable [sic]. Common indicators include a reduction in the amount of diversity of plant and animal species, loss of water-retention capacity, lessened soil fertility, and increasing wind and water erosion.” The key issue in desertification is the presence of climate variation, as experts point out that the more important dimension of the problem refers not to the expansion of existing deserts, but to the result of human activity in dry land masses, as land is exploited and inappropriately managed. Desertification is not only intrusion by sand dunes; it is gradual loss of soil fertility from excessive cultivation or grazing, destruction of trees and shrubs for firewood, and the lack of effective water resource management. Desertification can happen through natural causes in any climate zone. The areas at risk are mainly in Africa, but also extend to Asia and the Americas, including the western portion of the continental United States. The expansion of such vast deserts as the Sahara, Gobi, and the Arabian are not the main concern, scientists say. Rather, areas that are gradually drying out, making the practice of farming progressively unsustainable, are becoming sources of global ecological and human concern. In marginal areas, where natural resources are depleted over time and the land becomes unproductive, starvation may ensue.