We often view land use as a local environmental issue, but it’s quickly becoming a matter of global importance. Today, we use more than 15 million square kilometers, an area about the size of South America, just to grow crops. For pasture and rangeland, we use more than 32 million square kilometers — an area comparable to the continent of Africa. Altogether, our cities, crops and pastures occupy more than 40 percent of the planet’s total land surface.
By 2050, the world population is expected to reach about 9 billion. That’s almost 2 billion more people who need food, water and shelter to survive. This rapid population growth, combined with rising dietary and biofuel consumption, has led to a major transformation of Earth’s land, water and air systems.
IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative develops and applies tools needed to characterize global land use; understand land use changes; assess trends in global agricultural supply and demand; improve our ability to balance human needs with environmental stewardship; and promote secure landscapes across the globe.