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Posts Tagged ‘land use

“The Earth is what we all have in common”*…

Ancient Gateway, Angkor, Cambodia

There’s a pervasive notion in our society that nature is something outside, over there, other, from what we are as humans. From religious texts teaching that God provided humans with dominion over Earth, to futuristic literature pitching nature as our past and human ingenuity and technology as our future, the narrative that humans are beyond – or even superior to – nature is deeply entrenched.

This separation, this othering of nature, has arguably enabled our rampant destruction of the rest of the living world, and even led some to claim that our human nature is incompatible with nature itself.

Now a huge international study involving geography, archeology, ecology, and conservation adds to the wealth of sciences that exposes this idea as the lie it is.

Researchers found that for most of our history, humanity has lived in equilibrium with our world, despite us having altered most of Earth’s terrestrial surface far sooner than we realized. “Societies used their landscapes in ways that sustained most of their native biodiversity and even increased their biodiversity, productivity, and resilience,” said University of Maryland environmental systems scientist Erle Ellis.

Analyzing reconstructions of historic global land use by humans and comparing this to global patterns of biodiversity, the researchers found that by 10000 BCE humans had transformed nearly three-quarters of Earth’s land surface – you can view an interactive map of their findings here.

This upends previous models that suggested most land was still uninhabited as recently as 1500 CE. “Lands now characterized as ‘natural’, ‘intact’, and ‘wild’ generally exhibit long histories of human use,” University of Queensland conservation scientist James Watson explained.

“There’s a paradigm among natural scientists, conservationists, and policymakers that human transformation of terrestrial nature is mostly recent and inherently destructive,” said Watson.

In recent times, it’s certainly appeared that way, but clearly this hasn’t always been the case – humanity’s presence hasn’t always caused the life around us to wither away. The researchers note that in many areas, mosaics of diverse landscapes managed by people were sustained for millennia.

They used strategies like planting, animal domestication, and managing the ecosystems in a way that made the landscape not just more productive for us, but helping to support high species richness too. “Our study found a close correlation between areas of high biodiversity and areas long occupied by Indigenous and traditional peoples,” said Max Planck Institute archeologist Nicole Boivin.

“The problem is not human use per se, the problem is the kind of land use we see in industrialized societies – characterized by unsustainable agricultural practices and unmitigated extraction and appropriation.”

“We need to recognize that some types of human activity – particularly more traditional land management practices that we see in the archaeological record or practiced today by many Indigenous peoples – are actually really supportive of biodiversity. We need to promote and empower that,” said Bovin.

University of Maine anthropologist Darren Ranco noted that while indigenous people manage around 5 percent of the world’s lands that currently contain 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, they have been excluded from management and access in protected areas like the US National Parks.

These findings make it clear that we need to empower Indigenous, traditional, and local peoples who know their lands in ways science is only just beginning to understand, explained Ellis. While no one is suggesting we revert to technology-less societies of our past, the idea is to learn from different ways of living that have proven track records of longevity.

From there, we can find new and better ways forward with the help of our advanced technologies, and a big part of this is recognizing that we are part of nature just as nature is a part of us.

Learning from our ancestors: “Humans Shaped Life on Earth For 12,000 Years, And It Wasn’t All Doom And Destruction.” Read the research in full at PNAS.

By way of an illustration of the issue, “Climate crisis has shifted the Earth’s axis, study shows“:

In the past, only natural factors such as ocean currents and the convection of hot rock in the deep Earth contributed to the drifting position of the poles. But the new research shows that since the 1990s, the loss of hundreds of billions of tonnes of ice a year into the oceans resulting from the climate crisis has caused the poles to move in new directions.

Indeed, we’ve moved the poles 4 meters since 1980…

And for a look at just how much the earth has changed, “Google Earth Now Shows You The Consequences of Climate Change For The Past 37 Years.”

[TotH to the ever-illuminating “Nothing Here“]

* Wendell Berry

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As we find balance, we might spare a thought for Jean Nicot de Villemain; he died on this date in 1604. A diplomat and scholar, he introduced tobacco to the French court (and thus, into wide usage in Europe). In 1560, while serving as ambassador in Portugal, he was shown a tobacco plant in the garden of Lisbon botanist Damião de Goes, who claimed it had healing properties. Nicot applied it to his nose and forehead and found it relieved his headaches.

Nicot sent home seeds and leaves of tobacco, recommending its marvelous therapeutic value. He then sent snuff to Catherine de Medici, the Queen of France to treat her migraine headaches. She was impressed with its results, and became an advocate.

The tobacco plant, Nicotiana tabacum, and its active substance, nicotine, derive their names from his.

Nicot also compiled one of the first French dictionaries, Thresor de la langue françoyse (1606).

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“Wade tried to imagine Florida before the advent of man, but couldn’t. The landscape seemed too thoroughly colonized”*…

Island Walk, Naples, Florida

The state of Florida, in the United States, is bordered to the south, east, and west by the Atlantic Ocean, with a coastline of over two thousand kilometers in length, and is characterized by extensive areas of lakes, rivers, and ponds. Land booms during the early and mid-20th century resulted in the development of new communities and the expansion of low-density suburbia across many parts of the state, which frequently incorporated the abundant water resources, sometimes failing in their efforts.

Land-use trends throughout the state’s history have been directly influenced by the natural resources, geomorphology, and climate that exist within the state. Since 1900, Florida has seen substantial changes in land-use patterns and land cover due to significant increases in population and tourism, coincident with new development, facilitated by new railroads and highways, and inspired by an aggressive marketing campaign for new residents and visitors to come to the state…

By observing aerial images of these locations, it is possible to notice the different ways in which the urban layouts, lakes, and canals were developed and incorporated into the territorial planning of each city. Variables such as land use, the possibility of carrying out aquatic activities (such as fishing, swimming, and navigation), and the integration with other nearby navigable canals have shaped these water bodies alongside the land distribution, resulting in sinuous and winding patterns.

However, water resource management has not always been successful. Before the development of the area where the city of Cape Coral is located, in the southwest of the state, water was widely distributed on the surface and in shallow aquifers. According to Hubert Stroud, professor of geography at Arkansas State University, these resources degraded as soon as the Cape Coral developers began subdivision operations. According to Stroud, the layout, design, and construction techniques were particularly devastating for the water resources. Instead of using phased development, the area was dredged, filled, and segmented long before it was occupied. The resulting gridiron pattern of roads is interrupted by occasional sinuous canals…

Florida is a state marked by a large number of water resources, whether on the coast or inland, on the surface or underground, and many cities and communities have considered them to be key elements in urban planning, exploring their most diverse potentials. The alliance between planned cities and water resources in Florida not only reveals the curious patterns of roads and canals, seen in aerial photographs, but also the complex relationship between water and land in the context of the city, showing that water is more than just a resource for landscaping or aesthetics, it is a fundamental element in urban infrastructure…

Cape Coral, Florida

A history of Florida’s love affair with the water (with lots of mesmerizing aerial photos): “Urban Planning and Water Bodies: Florida’s Aquatic Land Cover.”

* Douglas Coupland, All Families are Psychotic

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As we try to bend nature to our will, we might recall that it was on this date in 2005 that the “I’m Going to Disney World” commercial featuring a player (usually the MVP) on the winning team, did not air at the end of the Superbowl telecast.

The commercial has aired after every Super Bowl since 1987, except for one. In 2005, the commercial did not air, though the reason for the absence is still unclear. The NFL was still reeling from Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction in 2004, and may have been leery of any advertising relying on spontaneity. Disney may have also felt that the campaign was losing its effectiveness after 19 years.

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In any case, it returned the following year and (largely) runs still… it did not run in 2016, at Superbowl LX, but Peyton Manning went to Disneyland to celebrate anyway.

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 6, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything”*…

 

united-states-land-use

 

The United States is not just an economic and political giant on the global stage—the country also has one of the largest land masses at its disposal.

Altogether, the country spans 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km²)—making it the third largest country in the world. Even without factoring Alaska and Hawaii into the calculations, the contiguous U.S. land mass can fit up to 30 European countries within it.

With this much ground to work with, it raises the natural question of how land actually gets used by America’s economy. For example, what percentage of land is taken up by urban areas, and how much farmland and forests exist in comparison?…

It’s clear that even a little space goes a long way. Although urban areas take up only 2% of land, an overwhelming majority of Americans call cities their home. As of 2018, urbanites made up over 82% of the U.S. population.

Where people go, productivity often follows. In 2018, it’s estimated that 31 county economies made up a whopping 32% of national GDP. Most of these counties were located in and around major cities, such as Los Angeles or New York.

Although urban areas are a small part of the overall land they’re built on, they’re integral to the nation’s continued growth. According to research by the McKinsey Global Institute, it’s estimated that by 2030, 60% of job growth could come from just 25 hubs…

Forests, shrubland, agriculture, grassland and pasture, wetlands. open space, and cities: Penn’s McHarg Center (via Visual Capitalist) breaks it down in “Mapped: The Anatomy of Land Use in America.”

* Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind

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As we account for acreage, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that, with the aid of a $36,000 grant from the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation, work began on what would be the World’s Largest Cheese, which was displayed, starting later that year, in the Wisconsin Pavilion at the 1964-65 World’s Fair.  The 14 1/2′ x 6 1/2′ x 5 1/2′, 17-ton cheddar original– the product of 170,000 quarts of milk from 16,000 cows– was cut and eaten in 1965; but a replica was created and put on display near Neillsville, Wisconsin… next to Chatty Belle, the World’s Largest Talking Cow.

In 2018, Wisconsin added a second record– World’s Largest Cheeseboard.   Weighing in at 4,437 lbs, and measuring 35 feet long and 7 feet wide, it featured 145 different varieties, types and styles of Wisconsin cheese.

The replica on display (source)

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

January 20, 2020 at 6:36 am

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