This Land Is the Only Land There Is

SA: Excellent summary of the IPCC report in Summer 19 about how important land management will be to mitigating the climate crisis. By Robinson Meyer in the Atlantic.

“Nearly every American knows what our peculiar national grid of farm and field looks like. During a drive across the Midwest, it rolls past, flipbook-like: field-field-road, field-field-road. During a coast-to-coast flight, it unfurls outside the plane window like a vast Cartesian quilt, lines meeting lines at right angles, circles of irrigation locked within squares. This grid system, formally known as the Public Land Survey System, covers much of the land outside the 13 original colonies.

What every American may not realize is that this grid gives us a great advantage when thinking about area. Each of those grid squares is about one square mile. The Earth’s total land surface is about 52 million square miles. So we only get 52 million grid squares to work with as a species. While 52 million squares may seem like quite a lot, consider that each of them is worth incommensurately more than $1. At some point in the past, $52 million might have seemed like quite a lot of money. But now it cannot buy a 10-foot sculpture of an orange balloon dog.

These 52 million grid squares cannot only service our needs. They are all the land, period. They must also hold the vast, lovely, unknowable thing that we call nature—every shady spot, every mountain stream, every sand dune. (The IPCC authors call this, somewhat dryly, “biodiversity and ecosystem services.”) Every grain of rice and cobalt mine, every sidewalk square and platypus, has to be somewhere on that 52 million.”

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