Croplands in Perspective

Winter 2010

Navin Earth

A sometimes overlooked factor in the climate change debate is our organic impact on the world. Professor Navin Ramankutty of the Department of Geography asserts that nearly 30 to 40 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is used for growing food and grazing animals to serve the human population.

Ramankutty argues that human land-use practices have fundamentally altered the planet. “Our analysis was quite surprising,” says Ramankutty. “Only about 20 per cent of the world’s ice-free land surface is pristine. The rest has some kind of anthropogenic influence, so if you’re studying a pristine landscape, you’re really only studying about 20 per cent of the world. If you want to think about going into a sustainable future and restoring ecosystems, we have to accept that humans are here to stay. Humans are part of the package, and any restoration has to include human activities in it.”

View the spread of humanity’s agricultural footprint across the globe through Ramankutty’s interactive film.

Cropland Growth, from 1700-2000 (Movie)

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