Worldwide Land Use Patterns: 1700-1990

NASA has produced a fascinating series of maps of the world illustrating changing land-use patterns from 1700 through 1990. NASA’s main reason for creating this series of maps is to advance a hypothesis about land use and global warming, but a quick look at the maps themselves reveals another interesting observation:

Land Use – 1700

Land Use – 1900

Land Use – 1990

Among environmentalists, it is a shibboleth that preservation of existing environments and ecosystems is a priori a good thing. But on this map the parts of the world that changed the least from 1700-1990 are among the poorest regions of the world.

Just take one long look at Africa — almost no land use change in 300 years, and nothing but vast tracts of unending poverty.


Landcover Changes May Rival Greenhouse Gases As Cause Of Climate Change. NASA, October 1, 2002.

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2 thoughts on “Worldwide Land Use Patterns: 1700-1990”

  1. Ever though that there may be other reasons for poverty than the preservation of natural resources?

    Sure, cut down a tree and use it as acre could help.
    But it will defintely not solve the problems of corruption, trade restrictions etc.

    The correlation made here is more than only one-dimensional,


  2. Interesting observation that there has been little change in Africa’s land use systems. This is the same that has seen slavery taking away whole generations, then the coming of colonialists and imperialists, then neocolonialists, and finallymassive emigrations. No doubt these conditions have had their effects on the land use patterns.

    Malaria (and a few other disease epidermics) prevalence has played its role, too. So have been the corporate farmers who have taken the choise land for food production for the privileged.

    What is surprising is that the extensive Sahara to the north and Kalahari in the south have not as yet found someone to tame. If only there could be wealthy investors like those in Vegas, would Africa still be ranked so lowly? Or, if there was oil deposits, would the West be waging the Desert Storms there sic the Balck Hawk Down?

    The Royal Society of UK is currently sourcing brains into the future of food-crop production in the world. The coming decades are going to be tough for all, even those full of burgers and milk. Grain prices have shot higher than oil prices, and worse case is that grain is not found in deposits for mining/explorations. May be the poor land use in Africa will come as the saviour when oil-rich countries will be trying to drink their oil-for-food!

    The Halden Collider did not after all the hype give the explanations sought for years. May be it is about time people went back to believe. We are just but powerless in nature, and we are here for a purpose. That is the only, and where we are headed is not in our wisdom to gauge. We are on a mission and the best we can do is just but obey.

    The next time we go blaming the poverty in Africa, may be we should first ask and seek to undertand what poverty really is. Good land use patterns might not be future. After all, roaches will survive nuclear war while wise man wont.


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