02/11/2012 - Last week, UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, Miss Universe 2011, Leila Lopes, spoke about desertification at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA.
In her last public function for the UNCCD as the reigning Miss Universe, she spoke as part of the Museum’s three-part series of events for its desert exhibition, which is taking place 25 August 2012 – 3 March 2013.
The exhibition, Extreme Habitats: Living Desert Dry, explores the complex ecosystems of deserts by looking at how and where they form, examining plant and animal survival strategies and explaining the significance of these regions in our everyday lives. The exhibition also spotlights the global issue of desertification, the process by which fertile land is transformed into desert as a result of human-induced causes such as deforestation and poor agricultural practices, and drought conditions that have been exacerbated by inadequate conservation of water resources and climate change.
A native of Angola, Ms. Lopes made her presentation titled, Desertification: A Perspective from UNCCD Drylands Ambassador, along with Ms. Nandhini Iyer Krishna from the UNCCD.
“It is an honor and I am humbled to be asked to speak on this issue in the United States. My home country of Angola faces the same threat of desertification that people in the Midwest face. I hope that by sharing the struggles and successes of communities elsewhere, we can be inspired to do something together for the good of future generations,” said Ms. Lopes.
“Desertification is not a fate,” says Ms. Lopes. It can be reversed if it is caught early and there is a will to stop it. She added that many opportunities for its recovery are now possible through sustainable land management, land rehabilitation and reclamation.
Though part of her native country of Angola is threatened by desertification, Ms. Lopes has said she understands that drylands are not a liability, and that they hold great potential to solve some of the most pressing problems in advancing sustainable development.
Ms. Lopes was appointed Drylands Ambassador in November 2011 by UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Luc Gnacadja. Her goal is to inspire and uses her Angolan background to raise international awareness among decision makers and the public at large about the importance of combating desertification, land degradation and mitigating the effect of drought.
In June she also traveled to the Rio+20 meeting to visit communities in degraded lands in Brazil and advocate for the cause of combatting desertification.
Ms. Lopes passes on her crown on 19 December 2012 in Las Vegas, United States, when the winner of the 2012 Miss Universe beauty pageant is declared.
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