We’re Running Out of Wilderness

May 13, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Almost half of the land on Earth is now farmland, and mthe other half is basically desert or frozen tundra

Credit: Tree Hugger

Humans use 40 percent of the land on Earth for agriculture. Another 37 percent is dedicated to cities, towns and managed forests (i.e. forests grown and cut specifically for human use).

That’s almost 77 percent of Earth’s land dominated and controlled by humans.

“Nature is disappearing,” Navin Ramankutty, an agricultural geographer at the University of British Columbia, told Tree Hugger.

Ramankutty and his colleagues used satellites to figure out how much nature is left on the planet:

Credit: Tree Hugger

Only 23 percent of the land on Earth remains wild, and much of that wilderness is uninhabitable to both humans and most other species. Most of it is either too cold (think penguins and polar bears) or too dry (the Sahara desert) to be farmed.

The only lush wilderness areas left are forests like the Amazon, but as the human population continues to grow, they are disappearing fast.

“That’s a huge footprint,” explained Ramankutty.

Crops cover a third of agricultural land, while cows and other domesticated animals graze the other two thirds.

As cows, corn, soybeans take over most of the places where stuff can grow, the wilderness melts away.

Along with the wilderness, half of all animal species have gone extinct in the last 50 years, in what scientists are now calling the planet’s sixth mass extinction (the dinosaurs died in the fifth).

They’re disappearing because they have nowhere to live. Half of all mammals have lost more than 80 percent of their range/population in the last 100 years. There are more tigers in zoos and people’s homes than in the wild.

“We are basically destroying the planet for our own survival,” Ramankutty said. “This is not very sustainable.”

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