Drylands are characterized by physical water scarcity, often associated with land degradation and desertifi cation. Other factors that contribute to these problems include high population densities, unwise agricultural practices and overgrazing. However, while desert ecosystems are fragile and vulnerable and can collapse in the short term, given the right conditions and protection, these areas also have a great potential for recovery. Examples of the recovery of areas have led to the formation of counter paradigms and the emergence of a new understanding of drylands. This new understanding is founded on the recognition of the variability of these ecosystems from place to place and year to year, and of the infl uences of desert plants, animals and the agricultural practices of the people who live in drylands. This chapter defi nes both old and new paradigms, and discusses conditions that lead to non-sustainable situations and vulnerabilities. In addition, strategies are considered that can lead to proper land use and recovery.