Still Not So Crowded…

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A while back, Lew laid out a great post about how NOT-crowded the U.S. was. In it, he posted this great graphic:

I think it’s time for an update, and wouldn’t you know it, Gizmodo, one of my favorite sources for off-beat science and technical fun, comes through, again!

The posting, entitled, “How Many Nukes Will It Take to Instantly Annihilate Humanity?” takes a bit of a tongue-in-cheek look at nuclear proliferation. As the comments reveal, there might be some debate about the conclusion, particularly with respect to exactly how many nuclear bombs could end humanity, and what the mechanism would be. That geek-tastically thrilling debate aside, what I found fascinating was the part of the posting that no one seemed to debate. To wit:

The first part of the graphic—created by David McCandless—shows how much space is actually used by the entire population. According to the Guardian Datablog and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, only 12.5% of the planet’s surface is actually occupied by humans. A total of 18,617,500 square kilometers.

And here’s the corresponding graphic:

Human Coverage of Earth

Every time some doom-and-gloomer gets all teary-eyed about humans “overwhelming” earth, I’ll think back to that number, 12.5%. Now, have we all been taught that humans occasionally tend to be cavalier with our trash and the like? Sure, but I agree with Doc Block from “Defending the Undefendable“, the problem is not with litter per se, but with ownership. Given the amount of trash efficiently cleaned out of ball parks, I don’t reckon litter would be a problem if the State didn’t “own” things it shouldn’t.

(By the way, no, there apparently is not newer data than 2003 for U.S. land use, at least not from the National Resources Conservation Service.)

11:54 am on August 29, 2009