Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) have mapped out changes in human land use over the past eight thousand years, also projecting fifty years into the future. The animated world map displays the fraction of land under cover of natural vegetation since the origins of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East.
As time goes by, intensive land use spreads first to India, China, Europe, then gradually across the rest of the world. But the story isn’t just one of ever increasing development. Natural regrowth sometimes occurs due to sudden drops in population. Just like the melting ice caps video from a few weeks back, the most dramatic events take place right near the end, around about where you and I come into the story. So be sure to watch it right through. Check out the video below – confusingly, dates are shown in the ‘before present’ scale.