Only a fifth of Earth’s land has little human influence

Preface. Humans have basically taken over the best land on the planet, the places where we aren’t ruining it are really cold, high or dry areas of land, such as arctic landscapes, mountainous areas or deserts.

Alice Friedemann  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report


Riggio J, et al. 2020. Global human influence maps reveal clear opportunities in conserving Earth’s remaining intact terrestrial ecosystems. Global Change Biology.

Humans inhabit most of the planet with just 20% of ice-free land free of our influence.

A team of researchers led by Jason Riggio at the University of California, Davis, analyzed four maps showing global human influence around the world at different times between 2009 and 2015, and created a single global map highlighting areas where people have the least influence.

Very low human influence of land is either not occupied or used by people, or has low density populations of indigenous peoples. These are primarily wilderness areas where humans are visitors, not residents.

After excluding the estimated 10 per cent of Earth that is ice-covered such as Antarctica and most of Greenland, or glaciers elsewhere in the world, and calculating the level of agreement between the four maps, they found that 21% of the remaining land on Earth has very low human influence.

Most of the low human influence areas on the planet are really cold, high or dry areas of land, such as arctic landscapes, montane areas or deserts. In contrast, only about 10% of grass lands and dry forests have low human influence.

The analysis suggests “the overall trend is that we continue to lose natural landscapes and overall human influence is increasing globally”, says Riggio.

“A global human influence map is critical to understand the extent and intensity of human pressures on Earth’s ecosystems,” says Riggio. Highlighting the few remaining areas on Earth with little human impact could also help governments and organisations to plan and prioritise which areas of the world to protect.

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2 Responses to Only a fifth of Earth’s land has little human influence

  1. Perran says:

    A year or so ago you did a review about a hermit into lived in the woods for over twenty years. There is a book on my book shelf called “A man called possum” which you might find interesting and inspirational although I’m not sure if you’d be able to find a copy in the US. This man lived in the bush all by himself for over fifty years.
    Here’s a link to a brief overview