Environment: Earth's Creeping Deserts

A tide of ecological refugees from land turning to sand

Outside the great conference hall in Nairobi, 16 fountains sent up sparkling plumes of water, and black Mercedes limousines glistened in the bright East African sun. Inside, some 1,500 delegates from 110 nations sat in air-conditioned comfort. The splendid setting of the meeting could hardly have clashed more jarringly with its purpose. At the U.N.'s invitation, the representatives had gathered in the Kenyan capital last week to discuss and devise ways of containing what an increasing number of experts regard as a major environmental...

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