Defining and debating the problem
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Defining and debating the problem book
It may be as well at the outset to face an objection to this statement, to which we return in chapter 5. It may be argued that, if there is abundant land or if losses in productivity can be made up by the provision of chemical fertilizers, degradation is neither an economic nor a social problem. However, this argument can be turned around: without degradation it would not be necessary to move to new land with the attendant costs; without degradation, such large inputs of chemical fertilizers would not be necessary in order to sustain production at constant levels, and efficiency of their use by plants would be greater. Either way, there are both economic and social costs. Also there are secondary costs, such as the nitrification of water supplies, which are purely social in nature in that they affect people and ecological conditions away from the site.