36 Billion Acres…Third Rock from the Sun
5:15 AM – April 2, 2017 (86 Cannon St, Charleston, SC)
Greetings, I am joining you from Charleston prior to sunrise. After a weekend in Charleston, pathways seem to open up giving me the ability to sit down and start tapping away on the iPad.
So as the six of you recall, in our last chat we were discussing land use and how many acres are in the world and how we use all this dirt. To review, it is agreed that planet Earth is comprised of approximately 36 Billion acres. Of this total approximately 11 billion acres are utilized as crop land, permanent crops, or pastureland. Therefore an estimated 30% of our land mass in the world is used or is available for agriculture and it is clear from my reading this is arguable based on the definitions established in the analysis.
The most surprising fact I discovered is there is some debate on how much land is actually in urban or suburban land use globally. This is primarily related to the resources available in certain areas of the world, as land use is not specifically monitored and clearly there are different methodologies used in the analysis. The best estimates suggest urban land use globally is between 2 and 3 percent. Many of the claims made suggest urban land use change is challenging available resources for future generations and even our existence all over the world. The intensity of land use in densely populated regions of the world, a range of environmental impacts and abuse of natural resources can and does occur. It helps however, to have some perspective to these matters recognizing the true footprint urban development has on the world.
At the end of the day land use comes back to agricultural land and shapes the land use throughout the world. The top five countries in the world in terms of agricultural land use include India, United States, Russia, China, and Brazil. (Source: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_use_statistics_by_country) The geopolitical factors of where food originates in the world shape global politics on issues from climate change to international trade. While the world has seen great forces of industrialization and the age of information, each of which reshaped where and how we live, neither of these periods have proven a way to provide food and fiber to feed people. Reading through the many perspectives from commercial agriculture to academic writings, most agree the ongoing challenge to feed the world remains significant and there is great pressure on agriculture to manage land and water resources.
Bringing this all into focus I think it is notable to understand the scale and importance of agriculture on the stage of world affairs and economic importance. On our little island of the Delmarva we have approximately 5 million acres of land comprised of 1.7 million acres of wetlands, 500,000 acres of forestland, 600,000 acres of grasslands and over 2.2 million acres of cropland. Putting this into economic terms, in Maryland alone the impact of forestry and agricultural services to the state economy is nearly $8.25 billion and nearly $3 billion in value added product and services.
This exercise originated from my little girl Aurelia asking if “this is land”. In summary, I would simply say we sell dirt because there is a lot of it and it has great utility to provide basic needs. Hope you can find a piece of dirt to take a walk and enjoy the day.