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How America Uses Its Land (bloomberg.com)
463 points by Alex3917 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 231 comments



The one third being used for cows is misleading. Pasture is basically the Bureau of Land Management’s default use for the vast swaths of federal land. It’s like “here is this land, you’re allowed to graze on it with a permit.” That doesn’t produce that many cows—it’s more about politics and the fact that much of the land is good for little else besides growing grass.

The real land use from growing meat comes from the land used to grow the corn that feeds the cows. In the article, that’s counted as agricultural land, not pasture.


>Pasture is basically the Bureau of Land Management’s default use for the vast swaths of federal land. It’s like “here is this land, you’re allowed to graze on it with a permit.” That doesn’t produce that many cows...

And yet it is an incredibly destructive use of land for so few cows. BLM land is often shrubby desert and is not able to cope with the impacts of the cows and remain a healthy ecosystem.


I have the opposite impression, that the grazing of cows on this land is beneficial as it mimics the role the buffalo formerly played.


If and only if it's done correctly. Both the above statement and yours are true, it really depends a lot on how it's done.

In most cases it's not done well.


To be more specific, the cows should take a bite and move on. This keeps the grass short, but doesn't kill it. With short grass, predators can see prey easier, so birds can eat and deposit droppings to add more nitrogen to the soil.


We can simulate buffalo mob grazing with "managed intensive grazing": many cows in a small area for about a day, then they move. In addition to what you said, it manures the land quite evenly. The grass can stay in its fastest-growing "adolescent" stage. Builds topsoil quickly and sequesters unbelievable amounts of carbon. (This is not how most beef is raised.)


"This is not how most beef is raised."

It's how most beef should be raised, though, IMO.

Unfortunately, if we were to take all the cows stuck in factory farms and turn them loose on BLM land, I somehow doubt there would be enough food out there for them.


Grass-feed cattle farmers tell me it takes almost exactly the same amount of land to graze cows as it does to grow the grain to feed them in a feedlot, so that would be a direction to look: replacing grain farming with ecological grazing.


I think that the point was that only minority of this land is really used for this purpose.


No, the point was that using such land for grazing does not actually produce a high percentage of cattle raised for meat, vs. feedlots where cattle eat corn grown on farmland.

From an ecosystem impact perspective, though, arid land that only occasionally hosts herds of cattle is still going to be significantly affected, compared to similar land that is protected from any commercial grazing.


Isn't that true of pretty much any industrial farming even plants?


I think a better map would be to show how much land is in private hands versus held by Federal and State governments. I bet people would be shocked, see this article from 2016 [1]

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/federal...


I bet with more data they would be underwhelmed. Compare the Federal Lands map[0] with a land-cover map[1].

See how much of that BLM managed property is semi-desert? And how much is actually Forest Service land? The first map also includes state lands, which is more apparent in the East, and Alaska. I for one am proud of our reserving of lands for the greater public. It's all of our lands, not just a few greedy landowners.

[0]https://prd-wret.s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/assets/palladium...

(above found here: https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/pad-us-land-management-map)

[1]https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/pad-us-land-management-map


I advise Americans to auction empty federal land holdings. having so much of land in state's property is wrong, and very uncapitalist.


Sell your kidneys, too. /s


What useful things does the US federal government do with all that land?


Prevent ecological destruction.


Can you formulate this in a less meaning-amorphous phrase. "Prevent ecological destruction" in this context can mean every thing imaginable.


Yes, I can. But I think it's clear enough already, especially in contrast to the supremely vague assertion about economic ethics.


It is not clear to me.


I've never understood how the federal government holding all of this land has held up in court. What is the constitutional justification for this?


Because the land is owned by the U.S. Federal government after making deals with European countries, Native Americans, and also taking it from Native Americans by force.

No one has yet transfered the property rights to the land to anyone else.



Governments can own property too...in capitalist economy government is just one of many market participants.


>much of the land is good for little else besides growing grass.

From an agricultural standpoint perhaps.


Yea, clearly gp has never ventured out into some of this. There are gems here for hiking/backpacking, and preserving wildlife/watersheds, and much more than just feeding cows.


Yes, but some of it... it's really just like this:

https://goo.gl/maps/rQjoQWY9Svu

It doesn't support many cattle, but that's about all you can do with it, and there are better places for 'outdoor activities'. Cattle do need to be managed so as to allow the native species (sage grouse for instance) to thrive.


I'm pretty sure the Oregon high desert is really good at being high desert. Does the Mojave have to be useful to humans to be a valuable thing?


I feel like you're being a little disingenuous to the OP. He's obviously talking about the economic/productivity value of the land, which is to say that the BLM considers large parts of the country to have little economic value beyond growing grass and thus designates it as free range grazing land.

It doesn't mean it has no value as a wild, natural environment, just that from an economic development perspective there's not a lot going on there.


I think the OP probably did mean that and wasn't thinking that much more deeply about the statement, but I also think it is that very mindset that the posters challenging it are targeting. Because that mindset - looking at everything through a lens of economic development, and a very narrow definition of economic development at that - is incredibly destructive.

I don't think its necessarily a knock on OP, so much as it is just meant to be a reminder that we should really try not to just fall into that way of thinking.


Nowadays, an alternative, and possibly greater, source of economic value might be as a carbon sink.

I'm curious if some of this pasture land might be more heavily forested if it weren't being grazed. Out where my folks live in Colorado, for example, it's striking to see how anything that's anywhere close to flat enough for cattle to walk on is scrubland, but the sides of the mountains are well-forested. I'm no ecologist, but I doubt that's because trees just happen to only grow well on steep terrain.


That might be true, but to establish that state we'd have to kill off the native grazers. People tend to forget that before we had vast herds of domestic cattle in the western plains we had vast herds of bison, antelope, etc.


The vast herds of bison is an interesting example.

I read in some book on pre-Columbian history or other that the prairie that existed in North America when Europeans first showed up was a product of human activity. It seems that folks living in the Great Plains started burning down forests to create more grazing land for bison, in order to have larger bison herds for hunting.

re: antelope, I thought they were browsers and not grazers.


Indeed. Above, I mentioned the sage grouse. Those don't do well in areas where juniper trees have encroached. They like the wide open plains of sage.

https://www.earthfix.info/news/article/juniper-trees-sage-gr...

And juniper trees aren't exactly a 'forest' like most people would think of one.


wow that's some whacky camera mount. For a second there I thought this was the world's steepest desert 0_o


It does have to be useful to the owner of the land who is getting taxed on it and has some investment in the land.


Taxed? The BLM? It's an arm of the federal government. They don't pay taxes.


>Does the Mojave have to be useful to humans to be a valuable thing?

Yes, humans are the only creatures we know of with the concept of valuing land.


Territoriality is coded really deep in evolution. Even animals as simple as the fruit fly get aggressive when another fly takes its space.


They don't value anything other than the space they currently occupy. That's not valuing land so much as valuing immediate space.

There are absolutely no animals in Africa that value any land in South America other than some humans.


Well, I value both the Mojave and the Oregon High Desert as unique places in the world. Not everything needs to have a ROI, usefulness, or our permission to be valuable.


huh? do other creatures not inhabit space?

does a creature need to have a concept of value in order to value things?


He’s clearly taking about economic value.


Yes, iff "value" is to have a meaning distinct from other verbs in the opinion of that creature.


Just inhabiting a space does not mean you value it.


Thank you for this comment. This is one of the things I like on HN, people think profoundly.


I believe so. Other organisms don't really seem to have a concept of value, which would imply they're willing to make trades. Any organism that gathers things seems to hoard at best without any idea what it would trade for what it's hoarding.


I disagree. Here are some other people who disagree too. Some animals trade goods and services.

https://www.quora.com/Do-any-non-human-animals-trade-with-ea...

https://www.seeker.com/parrots-barter-with-nuts-1767294582.h...


These are good links, but please see my reply to beambot for what I'd consider a proper response.


> Other organisms don't really seem to have a concept of value.

To first-order approximations, most living creatures seem to value their lives & habitat.


This was my first response to "animals have no sense of value", that what is valuable to the animal is what helps it to survive and reproduce. The animal may not know that grass helps it survive and reproduce, but the individual whose instincts draw it towards places where there is grass (the individual who "values" grass) will do better than one who does not "value" grass.


I believe that doesn't satisfy the definitions of the word value. Per https://www.dictionary.com/browse/value?s=t

1. relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education; the value of a queen in chess.

2. monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: This piece of land has greatly increased in value.

3. the worth of something in terms of the amount of other things for which it can be exchanged or in terms of some medium of exchange.

The key words here are "relative", "trade", and "exchange". Just because something is mandatory for an organism's survival or well-being, it does not mean that the organism is able to attribute value to it. For example, an animal would be unable to say what they'd be willing to trade for the grass they eat for survival, nor how much grass they'd be willing to give up to make the trade, and vice versa.

EliRivers shows a few links that present examples where various animals demonstrate ability to attribute value. I'm not sure that it's "value" that they're contemplating when they make their decision though. In the first link, all the examples are 1-for-1 trades, albeit displaced by time. In the second link, the parrots may come close to doing what's described, though I wonder if it's simply a case of the parrot not preferring to eat pecans anymore after having tasted cashews.

I once adopted a street cat and the first thing I fed her was some sausage snack I bought from the convenience store right by where the cat was. She ate the sausage snack voraciously and happily. A few years later after feasting on various types of the best cat food, I went and bought that same sausage snack for nostalgia's sake. My cat would not even touch it. After having a long conversation with my cat about me thinking that she didn't appreciate the early days of our relationship and her thinking that I was being condescending and inappropriate, I threw the sausage snack out and gave her proper cat food, which she promptly ate. I am very sure that the one that was not in her mind was what value the sausage snack had to her. I venture that if I starved her, she'd eat the sausage snack out of desperation, but I don't think that has anything to do with how much she values the sausage snack.

Or maybe the parrot is able to attribute different amounts of value to different nuts, who knows?


Your cat example is perfect. Your cat clearly makes value judgements about food options by rejecting one type in favor of other offerings -- ones that may not even be immediately available. That you cannot speak 'cat' for her to explain why the sausage is not ideal is not her failure...


I'm not quite sure about that. The point is that because she rejects one food in favour of another shows a preference, but it does not necessarily show an understanding of exchangeable value. To say it shows she understands how to attribute value I think is jumping to conclusions. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying let's not jump to conclusions about what's going on in her mind. She could say that she prefers cans of tuna. That doesn't mean she is able to think that one can of tuna is worth 200 sausage snack packs to her.

edit: I suppose we could claim that the cat is making judgements on value, but is unable to actually measure the value they're thinking due to complete lack of mathematical prowess. I guess it's possible in that way for cats to understand value, but not actually use or express it in any way, except for choosing whether to eat what's in front of them, due to lack of cognitive capacity. Perhaps I was guilty of thinking value judgements require mathematical understanding.


How about crows who, without having been trained to do so, collect items that they have no inherent need for and cannot eat - small pieces of metal and such - and then gift them to humans who feed them?


That's a much better example, gotta agree with that. Counterexample accepted.


Man, people have really jumped on the worst habit of Reddit here lately, downvoting people they disagree with.



That's pretty fascinating, because as I understand it, downvoting pushes comments down a page and makes it harder to see, it functions as an added method along with flagging and moderating of enforcing community norms and removing unwanted behavior. I'm surprised that extends to valid but unpopular opinions, as well. Thanks, that's interesting.


>but that's about all you can do with it, and there are better places for 'outdoor activities'

there are better things to eat than shitty meat from cows grazing in a desert. i'll take the outdoor activities and the preservation of these ecosystems


That stretch of highway seems like about 95% of the way to the place where you buried the bodies, or the barrels full of cash and/or guns. Or a good spot to pick up a supernatural hitchhiker of some sort, like your own father, but 5 years before you were conceived.

Also, that Street View vehicle needs to readjust its camera mast to vertical.

If I managed a beef herd out there, I wouldn't expect it to gain much weight out there. I'd actually worry a bit about waking up one morning to find a bunch of cow mummies, still standing up, just about where I left the live cows.

Seems like a good place for solar power plants, though. Or anything that doesn't depend on water, unlike most of human civilization.


Also,

> shitty meat from cows

Ribeyes are delicious


A Twitter thread making a similar point:

https://twitter.com/SarahTaber_bww/status/102439440363551539...


> much of the land is good for little else besides growing grass

I wonder how much about that could be changed with a large scale permaculture [0] approach?

There must be something useful able to grow there? From there you can maybe bootstrap a long-term ecological change of the region into something with lusher vegetation.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture


Not even that hard to do, basically add some swales on contour and some trees along those swales, then graze in between the rows of trees. This guy is doing it in Wisconsin: https://www.acresusa.com/restoration-agriculture


> More than one-third of U.S. land is used for pasture ... There’s a single, major occupant on all this land: cows.

Not here. I live on cow range land, but the cattle are outnumbered by elk. The elk hunting industry here is larger than the cattle industry. Every third local seems to be a hunting guide, and many of those are cow growers too.

This seems to me to be a very positive thing that should be encouraged. Instead of buying all their meat at the local supermarket meat counter thousands of city dwellers dream of the hunt. They buy expensive equipment and tags then come out here and work their asses off for a chance.

Why would anyone spend that much and work that hard for an uncertain outcome unless it was fulfilling in some way? It sure doesn't save money on meat. Hunting forces you to commune with nature, dressing and hauling out your kill rubs your nose in it. It forces you to own responsibility for killing your dinner. Paying the blood price carries meaning that paying $/lb for a BOGO does not.

If we can arrange for more people to harvest their own meat rather than accepting an industrial commodity, more people would have a greater love and understanding of nature, more respect for themselves, and more meaning in their lives. In many places it's a superior use of the range.


> They buy expensive equipment and tags then come out here and work their asses off for a chance.

That's fine as a hobby, but it would create poverty and rapid depletion of wildlife if the majority of people were forced to depend on hunting and game meat for daily meals.

> If we can arrange for more people to harvest their own meat rather than accepting an industrial commodity.

This is a false dilemma. If we want to return to a nation of small farmers rather than a handful of industrial farms, all we need to do is increase property taxes on land ownership, as declining property tax rates are associated with increased rural inequality and a worsening gini coefficient for land ownership, where a greater fraction of land is owned by fewer people. Development of large numbers of intensive and efficient small farms can also be aided by marginal cost public irrigation infrastructure funded out of land tax revenues, which is how California developed its agricultural sector in the early 1900s using its public irrigation districts. Requiring households to devote large fraction of their labor towards traveling to hunting areas is not a realistic alternative.


At least in Texas raising property taxes as such isn't the answer. Rather capping the amount a single owner/organization can claim in ag/etc exemptions, while making it easier for small 20 acre farms to claim the exemption. Right now what you have is the richest land owners paying the lowest rates, while owners of tiny suburban/rural lots get murdered.

For example, I give you a few pieces of the 6d ranch, located on some of the most prime real-estate in Austin Tx.

(Lot 4, 260 acres, $307 in taxes) http://propaccess.traviscad.org/clientdb/Property.aspx?cid=1...

(Lot 2, 155 acres, $278 in taxes) http://propaccess.traviscad.org/clientdb/Property.aspx?cid=1...

(Lot 1, ~120 acres + ~7000 sqft cottage, boat dock larger than my house, and a bunch of other stuff, $69,556 in taxes) http://propaccess.traviscad.org/clientdb/Property.aspx?cid=1...

The $70 thousand a year in taxes seems like a lot, unless you consider that I live a few miles away and pay ~15k a year for less than .1 acre and live in a house that isn't even as nice as the boat dock on that property.

(if you google it a bit you can probably figure out who owns it, but good luck untwisting the layers of shell corps listed on the tax appraisal)


No one is doing any commercially meaningful farming (not even for a small business) on 20 acres.

Consider for grazing use 2-6 acres per cow is needed. 4 cows, isnt even a blip. Nor can you farm most crops meaningfully on 20 acre plots either.

On lot 1, most of the taxed value is derived from the improvements, not the land itself.


There appears to be at least one counterexample, if you count "supporting one's family" as commercially meaningful.

Currently reading The Market Gardener and it's surprisingly fascinating for a guide to intensively cultivating on about 1.5 acres - about 140k CAD gross, 60k revenue on 1.5 acres - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18406251-the-market-gard...

(the author) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Martin_Fortier


Thanks for the recommendation, I'm going to check it out.


I ended up reading most of it in one sitting; surprisingly engaging.


> Nor can you farm most crops meaningfully on 20 acre plots either.

Perhaps your definition of crop is too narrow. Something like hops is well suited to "commercial" sizes starting at 20 acres.[1]

Vineyards supplying a co-operative? 20 acres of fruit trees for boutique cider production?

I think there's probably quite a few examples of 20 acre crops which are sustainable commercially.

[1] "...EU competitive hop farms (more than 10 ha of hops) ..." https://www.dlib.si/stream/URN:NBN:SI:DOC-CWQINAJR/eaf94387-...


Lot1: is prime lakefront property, with over a 100 acres next door to neighborhoods where land is in excess of $100k an acre.

As for small scale farming:

https://ensia.com/features/urban-agriculture-is-booming-but-...

edit: To be exact about $720k an acre, given this nearly adjacent:

(.3 acre 4391 sqft, $20k taxes)

http://propaccess.traviscad.org/clientdb/Property.aspx?cid=1...

again the improvements are worth more than the land, but if the guy had a full acre that wouldn't be true.


You can feed a family with vegetables and eggs on less than two acres (some claim 1/4 acre) if you know how.


Intensive veggie growers ("intensive" means "scaled-up home garden") can make 6 figures on 1.5-2 acres. Selling higher-margin crops direct to customers puts a lot of money in the farmer's pocket.


You pay $15,000 / year in property taxes on a lot less than 1 acre? Is that normal for Texas?


No, it isn't. I was paying $4100 for a similar property in Dallas in 2016.


Yes, see my other comment above for a (random) single family home adjacent to the 6d ranch on .3 acres.

Texas is a low tax state if your a billionaire, or business, everyone else is fscked.


I live in a developing country. People regularly kill animals to eat. They will have chickens, ducks, rats, fish, turtles, dogs, and pigs that they raise and eat.

There is no "communing with nature". There is no "paying the blood price". There is certainly no "greater love and understanding of nature" or "meaning in their lives". It is just eating, living, surviving.


Suicide rates tend to be lower in developing countries. Don't you think that lifestyle is part of the reason?

https://amp.businessinsider.com/images/535557fc6bb3f78245a35...


To quote a smart person I know: “Yeah, sure, you could give up, but then who’s gonna feed the kids?”

When your life is hand to mouth, there’s not a lot of room left for suicidal stuff. Too busy surviving. Especially if there’s people depending on you.

Even if you’re suicidal, you don’t have the luxury to go through with it. And even if you’re depressed, you don’t have the luxury to give into it. Because if you do, then you don’t eat and neither do yiur kids. No choice but to keep going.

Life’s fun like that.


Or, such places handle social interaction better. Birth rates decline in developed areas. My pet hypothesis is that “developed” countries/areas are only developed through extracting so much from workers that only a selected subset may reproduce.


Or, y'know, developed countries have more access to birth control...


It's not only one cause - declining TFR has to do with a ton of different things, access to birth control being one of them but far from the only one.


You’re pointing out the mechanism. I’m talking about why people choose to not have children. This is not a disagreement.


The point of your parent comment is that the people in the developing world might also choose not to have children if they had realistic access to birth control - thus making the “why” incorrect. It could just be that having kids isn’t actually worth it.


I think this js the main reason. Most people here get children unplanned and the minority of them are rich.


Birth rates decline because of female education. This is such an established fact that your pet theory sounds like a crazy conspiracy theory "the moon landings were faked".


Really? Is it such an established fact? I seem to remember it still being a point of extreme contention, academically, only a few years ago. I haven't been in an academic setting discussing population growth and human movement for a while, but it's crazy that it would go from being one theory among many in an incredibly complex system to an established, unassailable fact in a decade.

Does Argentina have a much worse education system for women than Brazil?


Right, I forgot about that. But there’s still room to ask why women don’t want children.


I have noticed that too and I think it one reason may be that once you're freed from the "carnal" struggles of basic day-to-day survival, you tend to run into existential dread sooner or later and question the pointlessness of it all.

The struggles of developing countries are just another form of the distractions that people need to keep themselves from nurturing suicidal thoughts.


> Don't you think that lifestyle is part of the reason?

Or lifespan. Cancer rates are also really low in many super-impoverished countries. Few survive long enough to get it.


A low caloric diet prevents cancer. “Eat less and you won’t get cancer.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829867/


And you think this is the only lifestyle difference between the countries? There are millions of confounding variables.


Having people travel to hunt the meat they eat doesn't scale, though, at all. It's quite simply not possible to use it as a way to improve land use and reduce climate change. Suggestions like yours can be good, but they don't recognize the scale of the changes that are needed. It's the equivalent of trying to get people to buy hybrids to stop climate change - even if everyone could do it, it wouldn't make a dent in the problem.

Even given that hunting provides some kind of spiritual value (which I must admit I'm very skeptical of), it's a value only available to those who are by any reasonable standard quite wealthy (excepting rural people). It takes a lot of time, costs more, and is hard work that a lot of people aren't capable of. A marked increase in demand would make this even more of a problem.

>It forces you to own responsibility for killing your dinner.

I wonder if, faced with this choice, most people would not simply become vegetarians.


> I wonder if, faced with this choice, most people would not simply become vegetarians.

I expect that most people would quickly find that killing animals isn't that hard, that billions of people still do it today, and that natural disasters & wars have clearly shown that people can and do adapt quickly, doing things they never thought possible.


>I wonder if, faced with this choice, most people would not simply become vegetarians.

Probably not if they had to forage all their foods at current densities.


There is plenty of land that could be used for well-managed forest gardens. Bali is an example of a modern economy where people can forage a lot of their calories that way.


It would be real nice if our neighborhoods and streets were lined with edible plants. It seems like it could/would be a lot of work to maintain, but with the appropriate tools and planning it might be pretty simple. Non-edible (as far as I know) street trees are already watered by hand (with water trucks) here and they only seem to be used for decoration and shade.

edit: one issue to be careful of is the plants collecting "pollution"


only available to those who are by any reasonable standard quite wealthy

What reasonable standard? A shotgun or small game rifle is < $300 at Walmart and a license is about $20. I have a really hard time seeing that as needing to be "quite wealthy."

I agree with your other points, but I have to take issue with this one. I've let people we know, who live in the suburbs, hunt on our land and while I'm not a hunter, they certainly derive a great deal of pleasure from it.


Well, you hit the nose on the head with your final point - if hunting was the only way to get meat, there'd be a hell of a lot more meat being eaten.

I'm not sure that anybody here is recommending that literally every person hunts their meat though, or that it should be the only way to get meat, so what's the point of talking about scale?


> "if hunting was the only way to get meat, there'd be a hell of a lot more meat being eaten"

I think you meant __less__, not more, yeah?


Correct, and it's too late to edit :(


I live in a rural community where within the county and neighboring counties, cattle is a big deal. That said, the cows up here are fat and happy and have space to roam. Compare to the cattle pastures in the central valley where the cows are skinny and kept in small areas with limited space to roam.

One thing that surprised me moving up here, and this is something I didn't realize re: laws around food, availabiliyt of game meat (dear/elk/etc) really is something you have to hunt on your own.

Another interesting tidbit about cattle grazing and national parks - If you ever do the Mohave Road, there used to be a number of ranches that grazed in/along parts of that route. Old water troughs visible, etc. Most of them shut down, one of the few that was allowed to continue had connections to Diane Feinstein and her husband. Water, grazing rights, and land use politics can get pretty damn ugly out west.


I'm familiar with Mojave Road. Are you saying that there active cattle ranches out there still today? I really had no idea, I had thought they had all shut down by now...


Just ask the Bundy's


Lot's of people truly enjoy nature and aspects of it but also love being able to walk to three grocery stores, 15 high quality restaurants, and knowing that they can get almost anything at any hour of the night. Cities offer something rural areas often do not. Rural areas offer something cities do not.

I grew up on a dirt road in the middle of no where and loved every minute of it. I've been in Chicago for the last four years and love every minute of it. Eventually I'll probably move somewhere like Denver that allows access to both within an hours drive or so.


It's not so black-and-white. I live in an area where I have both of those things and it's a much smaller city (<200k). Okay I lied there might be a little driving involved but it doesn't really matter because I drive less than 3000 miles a year anyways.


I noticed US has around the same magnitude of cattle as it had wild ranging buffalo a few centuries ago. That doesnt seem like a great conversion.

Those forest reserves are enviable, the UK is lucky if it has a couple of squares left.


Alaska would be similar to northern parts of Canada where herds of nearly one million caribou roam.


> According to The Land Report magazine, since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million, an area larger than the state of Florida.

Wow, it's almost 50% increase in just 10 years.


Inequality in land ownership has been continuously increasing in the United States since the 1930s. Higher property tax rates on land ownership are needed to reverse it, as well as the elimination of property tax exemptions which the owners of non-profits, private forests, golf courses, etc are currently receiving.


Why is it a problem that those people are buying more land? If anything, a single owner that doesn't need the land for economic purposes can protect it much better than a bunch of individual people. My point is that people assume automatically that this is bad and must be stopped. Maybe it is good?


It is morally wrong to buy up tons of land, then forbid others to walk across it. Land should be for everyone, not just for a select few, especially since land was not created by the owner.


All land owners could forbid others from walking across, that is indifferent if you have 1 land-owner or a million. That's the origin of rent: becoming a land-owner makes you one of the forbidders.


In the UK, there are public byways and footpaths, which allow a specific right of way through private land. Often times it is a path through a farmer's field or such. The US could establish similar rules.


Concentrated ownership is power. Power tends to corrupt.


Yes, accountability and balance are the main issues. Hoping people will be good doesn't tend to work out well.


Yeah but also..there are no scaling benefits in owning really lots of land. It doesnt get easier to manage. And it is impossible to buy up all the land as the last piece of land would be worth infinity.

Im not sure what's going on, I'd like a more nuanced analysis.


Wait, if you want people on the lower end of the economic scale to own land, why would you want to punish them with higher property taxes?


Larger areas of land with high value are taxed more. Low socioeconomic people don't put mansions on large estates.


Screw that. I know people who have to keep working in their retirement because of their property taxes. If you're gonna tax land it should be proportional to how developed that land is. You shouldn't be taxed off of your land because you bought it 40yr ago before it was valuable.


Good question. It should be a progressive tax


Looking at that map, Between livestock pasture, feed and feed export it accounts for around 45% of the US. Food that we eat is only a small fraction.

Isn’t this a huge waste of resources, and completely unsustainable?

If we ate the produce directly instead of feeding it to cows and eating them, how many people could we feed?

What about the gigantic consumption of water this implies?

The link between this to global warming and climate change is undeniable.


That's the main reason a lot of companies are working on lab-grown meat. If they manage to get it cheaper than cows, the impact will be enormous. In principle it should be possible, since it requires far less resources.

The recent book Clean Meat covers the field in detail. Steaks will be a while, but for ground meat we're a lot closer than I'd expected. Dairy is even easier: no cells, just fats, sugars, and proteins that can be produced by engineered yeast.

(The book also has a chapter on just going vegan, but points out that despite decades of advocacy, people's behavior has barely changed. When people can afford meat, they eat it, and it's been that way for pretty much all of human history.)


The land used for feed is super low-value land that has no better use. It does contribute a bit to global warming though. The collective action problem we have to solve in order to stop global warming is much more difficult than just getting people to stop eating beef. If you believe feeding livestock in the most cost-effective manner available is wasteful, then there must be an implied route toward less waste. Maybe:

-the government should decree beef and pork illegal

-or implement some sort of high tax or cap and trade measure for livestock and meat

-and perform a massive propoganda campaign to teach people that they should raise their own chickens, eat more beans, and eat less meat/protein overall.

The problem of people not starving to death around the world is not an issue of food supply, it is an issue of food distribution.


This is indeed an incredible inefficiency to say the least. Going vegan is the single biggest way you can have a positive impact on climate change[1]. It's also really simple to do! And you can even get free support and dietary advise over at challenge22.com when you're ready to make the transition. The animals, the planet, and your body will be better off as a result.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding...


Feeding the world's hungry hasn't been about agricultural output for a long time- it's more about transportation and distribution.


> What about the gigantic consumption of water this implies?

The water isn't destroyed. It goes right back into the ecosystem. The planet surface is 70% water. We aren't running out of water.

> how many people could we feed? The US could probably feed the entire world with meat, with unlimited energy / $$. People going hungry is not a food production problem, it's an economic and logistic problem. If we use plant based food, we could probably feed 3X the world problem (or use 1/3rd the land). World hunger isn't caused by lack of productive land.

Your other point on meat requires more land use and energy than plant food is correct.


Sure, 70% of the earths surface is water. 97.5% being salt water and 2.5% being fresh water. You can't use sea water to irrigate agriculture. You can't drink sea water from the faucet. Additional money/ cost and work would be need to make the water drinkable. Please consider that many states like California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, water is a valuable resource. And yes, we are running out of cheap drinkable water. That's why most of the west coast gets most of their water all the way from Colorado.


desalination exists. the key word in is cheap. It's an economic and energy problem, not a water resource problem. They get water from Colorado because its cheaper than desalination. Once it's not, they will get water from the ocean.

also, all water requires money / energy to process before we drink it or use it on crops. It's just a matter of much money / energy you use depending on the source.


You're comparing alfalfa and oranges. You're not going to grow wheat on pastureland that can support sheep or cattle. Much less other vegetables.

You're also making the assumption that agricultural land is a resource that needs conservation, when there is a massive surplus of it. We've allowed huge tracts to revert to forest on the east coast.


Allowing more to revert to forest would help moderate CO2 levels. Assuming, that is, we didn't do what we're doing with U.S southeastern forests: converting vast areas into wood pellets, so they can be fed into power plants in Europe.


65% of the grain grown in the US is fed to animals:

https://www.vox.com/2014/8/21/6053187/cropland-map-food-fuel...

Start feeding that directly to people instead and you can use the rest of that land a lot more efficiently. And that's not even addressing all the other nasty externalities of breeding that many animals.


More efficiently for what?


Just because there is a surplus of agricultural does mean we should use it.

The one that we use is already causing massive environmental problems.

Grasing is not an inocous activity, there are the methane emissions that are very impactful.


I'm sure I'm misunderstanding you but... How is conservation of agricultural land not important?

I mean, isn't not being good stewards of the land what gave us the dust bowl?


Conservation isn't the best word there. Maybe optimization is better. It's not scarce, we don't need to agonize over calorie outputs per acre. And if you're going to do that, you don't want to be intensively farming most of this cattle country - there's one of the reasons for the dust bowl.


Ah okay, that makes more sense. Thanks.


From a resource perspective there is no surplus, due to opportunity costs in land conversion. Mid-term prospects for meeting global food demand boil down to increasing production yields. (Sure, distant technology will probably change this a bit).

http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/the-future-pr...


How about a private company (Weyerhaeuser) owning 12.4 million acres of timberlands. It's about twice the size of Maryland!


Growing timber like Weyerhaeuser does should probably be counted as cropland. They grow mono-culture trees the same way most farmers grow corn, but instead of harvesting every year it's every couple decades.

The very last line is what bothers me the most:

"since 2008 the amount of land owned by the 100 largest private landowners has grown from 28 million acres to 40 million, an area larger than the state of Florida."

That much land-wealth locked up by a handful of individuals seems like yet another knock against economic mobility. At one time people feared that sort of wealth concentration could mean a return of the aristocracy and was slowed somewhat through estate taxes.


If Ted Turner is who they’re talking about it’s mainly useless land and he doesn’t even own the mineral rights.


I think they actually do get a property tax break because it's farmland.


Comparing their ownership to a state sounds like a lot, until you realize that Maryland is 12,400 square miles and that 12.4 million acres is really only 19,400 square miles (if my math is correct). Just a reminder that Alaska is 665,384 square miles by itself. So put in those terms, over the entire land mass of the US, Weyerhaeuser doesn't look so out of balance.


Not that it matters, but Maryland is 12,400 square miles by total area, but 9,700 in land area. Maybe Vermont (9,600/9,200) is a better example. Using either example, that's a lot of land!

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territ...

Also, here's an article with an interesting map of their holdings: https://www.opb.org/news/article/weyerhaeuser-plum-creek-tim...


That's a result of them buying Plum Creek. Also the decline of the paper industry making the kind of vertical integration that Boise and Meade and International Paper and others formerly engaged in less useful.


"With so much of the U.S. population in urban areas, it’s little surprise that these areas contribute an outsize amount to the economy. The 10 most productive metropolitan areas alone contributed to about 40 percent of U.S. GDP in 2016."

I always find facts like this misleading, not purposefully so but misleading all the same. Take a semi-random example, PepsiCO. HQ in NY, Incorporated in NC, 250k + employees, 60B+ revenue. This is a huge company with many brands and global sales. They are stocked and sold all over the world with factories, distribution centers, sales centers, etc all over the place.

Does the NY metropolitan area claim all 60B in productivity?

Weyerhauser is another interesting company. For 100 years they were based on of Federal Way and only recently moved to Seattle (probably same metro area anyway). Obviously their bread and butter, timber, is not grown, harvested or converted into product in the metro area. The CEO lives in Seattle but the thousands of lumberjacks and mill workers are not in urban areas. The employees that "do the work" are not in urban areas. That last sentence isn't meant to be inflamatory but it was the best wording I could think of.

Some companies, maybe Facebook, do generate the vast majority from the HQ in an urban area.

It is beyond my skills to figure it out but I think an equally cool map/graph/infographic (I do think this is cool, just a small nitpick here) would be to break down how and where companies actually generate their revenue.

Another possibility- I don't know what I am talking about and these stats already take this into account.


This really looks like what theoutline.com does now.

I can’t imagine bloomberg.com would be creating this sort of web experience without whatever Topolsky did while he was there.


The portion of the country owned by Weyerhaeuser, shown in the map at the bottom of the article, is astounding. According to Wikipedia they own or control nearly 12.4 million acres of timberlands in the U.S. and manage an additional 14.0 million acres timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada.


Whoa, America has lot of golf courses!


That graphic at the end is a great way to explain how much area is used for our meat eating habit. Think of all the land which is not being used for... anything else. We are truly ecologically privileged to be able to create such a huge impact in order to eat meat.

Incredible.


A lot less impressive when you recognize most grazing land isn't much good for anything else.


It is a pretty significant diversion of land from a natural state though. Cattle grazing, thought it isn’t an ecological disaster like dam building, is quite different than leaving the land untouched.

Plus, a good portion of the country’s good farmland is diverted to growing feed for those animals.

Think of it like: how many acres have been changed from a natural ecosystem to an artificial one for meat eating.


Why do you think its natural state wasn't grazing before?

It's not like we invented grazing animals in a lab. The Great Plains were teeming with millions of buffalo before, and we have cattle on them now.

Sure that's different but it's reasonable to note that a lot of this land looks and basically is pretty much the same as it was before modern ranching.


In a natural state, there are predators, and herds stay closely packed for protection. This is great for the land; the grass is only intermittently grazed, and has time to recover and grow deep roots. Natural pasture like this sequesters vast amounts of carbon.

But mostly we kill off the predators. The livestock spreads all over and grazes continuously. The result is topsoil destruction and erosion. There are large areas where overgrazing is a serious problem.

Allan Savory has been the leading advocate for "holistic grazing" that keeps the herds packed. It's been controversial, because he advocates doing more grazing. The evidence of that helping is mixed at best. However, just leaving overgrazed land alone is another matter, and experiments have been very successful.


You think livestock is currently grazing on a significant percentage of america's landmass? The poster's point is that most of that land is /never/ touched by cattle.


>Cattle grazing, thought it isn’t an ecological disaster like dam building, is quite different than leaving the land untouched.

Leaving the land untouched is even more 'ecologically privileged' than using it to make expensive food.

>Plus, a good portion of the country’s good farmland is diverted to growing feed for those animals.

Growing feed (hay/grass) is much easier than growing things like almonds. If a farmer could grow something humans would pay for directly rather than hay, they would.


Given the colossal and uneven levels of subsidies in US agriculture, I'd be reluctant to draw any conclusions about what the market is willing to bear.


US agriculture subsidies are not colossal in fact. They're about $20-$25 billion per year. They shouldn't exist at all ideally, however given the immense size of the US agriculture market, and how critical it is to keeping hundreds of millions of people alive, it's hardly a concerning sum.

By contrast, EU farm subsidies in a smaller economy are three times that size. If the US farm subsidies are colossal, I'm not sure what you'd call 3x colossal.


The farmers here in Kansas are crying because the subsidies are being cut right and left. It's going to shake up the agricultural market big time.

Plus, all the grain storage facilities are still mostly full from last year and we're looking towards another bumper crop from all the rainfall this year.


Growing alfalfa has the added benefit of fertilizing the soil. Many farmers are willing to accept a small loss on hay production because it means less fossil-fuel derived fertilizer they need to buy for next year's cash crops and higher yields on those cash crops.


I could take you on a 100 mile ride through my neck of the woods right through dozens of ranchers' grazing grounds and I bet you'd see less than a dozen cows. There's nothing artificial about it. The land is still very natural. Oh. Except for the car we'd be driving in and the road and the four towns we'd pass through. But the BLM land is very much in it's natural state.


The lands natural state was grazing lands - before we killed off the millions of buffalo that lived there to try to starve native Americans into reservations. The most unnatural use of the great plains is farming, arguably, and farming was the singular cause of the dust bowl.


Hey but on the bright side all the unnatural farming did kill the largest locust brood of all time.

http://www.historynet.com/1874-the-year-of-the-locust.htm


Livestock can actually reverse desertification:

https://ourworld.unu.edu/en/reversing-desertification-with-l...


If they're grazing, are they using feed? Seems like the feed is for "finishing" in feedlots.

I wonder what the economics would be of doing without the feed and feedlots? There would be somewhat less cattle I presume.


It would be great for sequestering carbon dioxide (in the form of trees), which is really what most of it probably should be used for. Instead we're depleting the topsoil, using up all our non-renewable water, and poisoning the oceans. All for basically no reason.


Most of that land out West is too dry for many trees. There are some really interesting experiments for improving scrub plant growth using wavy rollers (water collects at bottom of rippled soil), but the fuel to plow that much land would probably do more harm than good.


Yes! I think a lot of people miss the water part. The land will not grow a lot of the plants we eat or large trees without irrigation. However cows and other animals can eat the scrub that grows there naturally so it makes some sense to raise cattle in these areas. It'd be interesting to see that pasture range broken out a bit more (feed lots, open grazing land, etc.). That said, I'm all for lowering our overall meat consumption. The amount of land for cattle and land for food for cattle is huge.


I was under the impression cattle require a lot of water, is that incorrect?


A grazing beef cow will drink about 7-10 gallons during the day. If it is hot, they will drink 25. Wheat yields around 1LB for 130 -150 gallons over the growing season. An avocado (1lb) requires about 90 Gallons over the growing season.

There are a lot of things to factor into this, crop yields aren't static and there are a lot of other things that can change the yields. Cows have legs, so you don't have to 'irrigate' them, they just have to be pastured within a couple thousand feet of water, and you can set up temporary solar pump + water trough if you have water within a couple miles.

Beef Cattle will give you 5-600 lbs of meat at about 1200 Calories per pound, with an average grazing time of 12 months. works out to 150cal/gallon.

Avocado has about 700+ cal per pound so about 8cal/gallon. (I'm not as sure on this, it could be lower as a 'medium' avocado is about 1/3 of a pound, but I've never grown avocados so I don't know the exact here.)

Calories in a whole grain wheat is about 1500/lb, so 1500/150 is about 10cal/gallon.

So it's kinda relative, but the only way you're going to harvest edible nutrients from scrub land is buy herding or hunting grazing animals that process the stuff with 4 stomachs.

There's a larger question of the value that grazing provides and if we need that as a food source. Before modern farming and shipping, if you lived in a semi-arid scrubland style climate, you were very much dependent on some type of animal to turn that stuff into a digestible food source for you.


They drink a decent bit, but most of the calculated water usage comes from the water used to grow alfalfa and feed.


Most grazing land was not cleared by people. It's just land that people graze their cattle on. Most of it is plains, and was never heavily forested. Also, when grass is eaten it absorbs much more carbon dioxide, so the grazing of the cattle is beneficial. Are you suggesting a better use of the land is for humans to plant a bunch of trees on it?


Unfortunately the methanogens in a cow’s gut mean that they’re an environmental disaster. I’ve read about seaweed being used to curb their, um, “output” yet unless thst comes into widespread use the state of affairs is grim. Grazing isn’t beneficial, it’s just a way to turn sequestered carbon into methane-belching cattle. Either we need to rapidly enact means to reduce those emissions with dietary additives, or we need to reduce the number of cattle.

Here’s a look at carbon sequestration in ecosystems in the Western US:

https://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/1797/pdf/pp1797_Chapter1.pdf

You can see that sagebrush and other hardy species, while not trees fit for lumber, can do the job better than cows belching away.

This paper focuses on the UK, but is still full of relevant info.

http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/file/1438141


> Unfortunately the methanogens in a cow’s gut mean that they’re an environmental disaster.

The bison that lived there before had identical gut bacteria, and it doesn't seem to have caused an "environmental disaster". Why not?


Because the bison were between 3x to 4x less numerous than cattle, lived far longer lives than the average 2.5 years to slaughter of a cow (not counting veal calves which are killed far sooner and never graze). It’s not just the number of cows or bison alive at any moment, but when you consider a 10 year period and count total individuals it’s even more stark due to rapid turnover of cattle. Buffalo were part of an ecosystem, so you had a loop of carbon in soil, carbon in plants, carbon in buffallo, and then a lot of that carbon returning to the soil as bison or wolf corpses.

Modern cattle spend some time grazing in the Great Plains, but start their lives on farms, and finish their lives on feed lots. Then they’re slaughtered, and more CO2 is emitted transporting them all around the country and indeed, world. Then of course, the bison existed in a world before heavy industry, a world of millions rather than billions of people, a world before automobiles, airplanes, coal fired plants, oil exploration, strip mining, rainforest clearing, ocean acidification and overfishing, etc... etc...


> Because the bison were between 3x to 4x less numerous than cattle

No, they weren't. You need to count only the cattle that are on the land under discussion.

> lived far longer lives than the average 2.5 years to slaughter of a cow

Irrelevant. One bovine is the same as another as far as the impact on the prairie is concerned. That's sort of how an ecosystem works, dude.

I'm skeptical that they lived "far longer lives", by the way. If they were anything like the wild grazing/browsing animals with which I am familiar (moose, caribou, musk ox) a WHOLE LOT of them died in their first year, either through being taken by predators or simply not surviving a harsh winter.

I strongly suspect you're using a lifespan figure for modern bison herds that are protected by human beings.


Because there were much fewer bison than there now are cows, and because the atmosphere wasn't already being pumped full of CO2, methane etc. by humans.


That is incorrect. The plains bison herds expanded to match the carrying capacity of the grazing.

Now, there are a lot of other cattle that aren't being grazed on the historical prairie. You might have a point with those, but it's not relevant to the point under discussion.


Because for most of their history, they weren’t accompanied by the massive carbon and methane emissions of their human counterparts’ industrialization? Seems self-evident.


I think the usual claim is that almost any other use at all would be better for the environment than cattle grazing.


I don't understand why - better being "more natural," right? Those plains have been feeding grazing animals for millennia, what should we do differently?


It’s a religious argument that cannot be won or lost.


They were feeding grazing animals, but without all the massive externalities associated with industrial agriculture, from antibiotic resistance to its impact on climate change.

If you’re also of an ethical mindset similar to someone like Peter Singer, the “cultivation” of animals for slaughter is not something one should favor.


> impact on climate change

do cows produce significantly more methane than non-domesticated grazing animals, or are there simply many more cows than there were buffalo?


There are cows now within an industrialized agricultural context that we know to be a significant contribution to climate change. Would bison in this context produce the same outcome? It’s hard to say, but the two circumstances of their existence on this land is largely incomparable.


That's kind of a bizarre statement, since (as others have noted) the land was historically used by grazing bison, a creature so closely related to domestic cattle that they can even interbreed with them with a substantial amount of success.

The same is true of similar grasslands elsewhere in the world. Lots of grazing animals, which support a smaller population of predators (including humans).


>using up all our non-renewable water

What are you talking about? Places in the midwest and eastern part of the west that get plenty of rainfall every year?


Sure, that's why huge aquifers are shrinking and causing subsidence.

Today about 27% of the irrigated land in the entire United States lies over the aquifer, which yields about 30% of the ground water used for irrigation in the United States.[5] The aquifer is at risk for over-extraction and pollution. Since 1950, agricultural irrigation has reduced the saturated volume of the aquifer by an estimated 9%. Once depleted, the aquifer will take over 6,000 years to replenish naturally through rainfall.[6]

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogallala_Aquifer


> Today about 27% of the irrigated land

"Irrigated land" is not the same as "farmed land".

The vast majority of farming is done in places where irrigation is rare.

About 53 million acres of farm land in the United States is irrigated, but there are about 257 million acres under cultivation.


But don't those trees eventually die and release that carbon back into the atmosphere?


The whole forest doesn't die at once, the dead trees' biomass doesn't all break down at once, and said biomass largely gets incorporated into new seedlings that spring up in the now-open space.


Yeah, but they continually die in a cycle such that the overall CO2 levels never really get stored long term as it is all temporarily stored in the trees.


All storage is temporary, in the end - the question is, how much time can we buy?


Yes, but putting a forest where there wasn't a forest increases the amount of stored CO2. It just doesn't keep increasing once the forest is mature.


Many species of trees in most forests can live for over a thousand years. So reaching "mature" could take that long. I imagine the stored carbon level keeps rising till then. The amount of carbon sequestered in a forest full of 4 meter diameter fir trees 75 meters tall is huge. In a mature giant sequoia forest one even has huge dead trees not rotting away for millennia.


If you're looking to sequester carbon, you'll probably want something fast growing - pine, bamboo.

Bonus points if (as with pine and bamboo) it can be used for construction, which'll potentially lock it up even longer.


Is it not good for housing?


There's a bunch of grazing land in the bay area. It tends to be really hilly. Not hilly like where we live, but seriously hilly.

Besides, we need the open space. Can't have houses everywhere, this isn't LA.


Not really, because it’s not near any jobs.


Isn't that a bit of a catch-22 though? It's not near any jobs because... there's no one out there. Why would you start a business there?


There are no jobs out there because it’s not a good place to urbanize. Settlement usually requires some combination of natural resources, navigable waterways, fresh water, protection from weather, protection from attack, or other inherent traits. The cattle grazing land in the middle of the country doesn’t have any of these.


Chicken or the egg, eh?


Chicken, egg, resource or harbor.


You could put all the factories and jobs you want out there and I still wouldn't have anything to do with the tract home nightmare that would create.


There are tens of millions of bison that would be grazing that land had they not been wiped out.


as others pointed out, it cant be really used for anything else.

I'll also add to that, look how much of the rocky mountains was listed as 'pasture / range'


Go look at the land that's being used as open range pasture out west. If it was not being used for grazing cattle, it would not be used for anything anyway.

Most of it was buffalo country two hundred years ago, so it's not like it's really changed.


Back in “the day” 20 to 30 million bison roamed the US. Today there are more than 94 million cattle in the US, and that’s actually down from a peak of 130+ million in the mid seventies. A lot has changed! Those bison were also wild, lived much much longer lives than farmed cattle which spend part of their lives in feed lots. The bison were also part of the broader ecosystem, hunted by wolves, and in general a net negative emitter.

The modern cow is not, especially when time on feed lots and eventual transportation pre-post slaughter are factored in. Modern cattle are after all, part of an industry which pollutes in addition to the cows themselves, while bison just lived and died on the plains.


You should also factor in the fact that the average buffalo are bigger than the average cow. Buffalo are around the size of a holstein cow, the most common dairy cow, but most of the meat cattle we raise are near half the size/weight of them.


Yeah, the chart gives the impression that land is land, and we just decide how to use it. But there are good reasons land is used the way it is. Farmland in the midwest is really really flat, with thick rich soil. A lot of forest land is pretty steeply sloped, with not so much soil. And so on.


In other words: even if mushrooms grow on it, land is not fungible.


I’m sorry, we’re going to shadowban your account for excessive dad jokes ;)


Huh. When you look at the graphics which concentrate all the urbanized land on the northeast coast, it looks like our total urban area is close to the size of Mega-City One. Cool.


interesting article but i couldn't get the entire map to fit on my (13 inch) screen no matter how I adjusted the browser. Very annoying.


You should let the reporters know you can't see the image. I'm sure they would appreciate the feedback and fix it right away.


Doesn't fit on my full HD screen either


I find the scroll UI for this really annoying. It gets stuck on the bottom of my screen until the last image.


If urban (built-up) areas have quadrupled since the 50's, I don't think that pace can continue unabated. Population has roughly doubled since then. It would seem the trend would require denser cities and suburbs, which should not be too difficult given that most metro areas are relatively low density.


The United States has a population density of 86 people per square mile. In Britain it's 704, in the Netherlands it's 1075 and in Singapore it's 20,192. You've got plenty of room.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...


While im sure they don't utilize all of their available farm land, it is worth mentioning that Britain imports almost 30% of their food, which means they are at or near the limit of sustainably feeding themselves, and even then almost 60% of the world's crop yield is the direct result of fossil fuel derived fertilizer, which we are going to have to give up soon if we don't all want to be cooked alive, which will increase the energy costs of fertilizer production 10 fold. The US would be hard pressed to find similar external sources of food if their population density rose significantly higher. Especially on top of all the desert and arid grassland areas that are pretty poor for farming.


It just seems wasteful if we were to use more than 5% of all land, much of which is "badlands" and marginal lands. True arable land, which is where our sustenance comes from is much less at around 16% currently.


56 million acres are Indian reservations and should probably be marked as such.


Reservations are a political boundary, this is a map of land use. You'd have a fair argument that the state boundaries shown on that map should reflect the reservations too, but not that the color key should include the nature of the local government.


I really enjoyed this page's UI on a mobile device.


* Here's How The United States Uses Its Land


Excellent well presented interesting analytical article. No surprise (but still remarkable) that Americans use more land for Golf than growing vegetables. Tragic though the insane amount of land used to grow biofuel, must be one of the most idiotic decisions ever made by politicians, cow towing to the anti (life giving) CO2 cult.


> Tragic though the insane amount of land used to grow biofuel

Out of curiosity, why do you think it's tragic? Aren't these fuels used for experimentation with sustainable energy?


Do cows generate more greenhouse gas when you tow them ?




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