Mappae Mundi: Humans and Their Habitats in a Long-Term Socio-Ecological Perspective : Myths, Maps and Models

By Bert De Vries; Johan Goudsblom | Go to book overview

10
The Past 250 Years: Industrialization and
Globalization

GOUDSBLOM

A quick look at maps 10.1a-d and 10.2a-d in the colour section of this book shows some remarkable changes. Maps 10.1a-d show changes in population density all over the world. Around 1700, there were only four large areas with a density of over 8 people/km2 (East Asia, South-East Asia, India, and Western Europe), and none with a density of over 16 people/km2. There had been some growth by around 1800, but it was of an incremental nature: the high-density areas had expanded somewhat, but hardly any other large areas had been added to the list. The map of 1900 shows a very different picture: spots of density of over 16 people/km2 become visible in the original high-density areas, while new areas with a density of over 8 people/km2 appear in the Americas and Africa, especially along the coasts. Around 1990 areas with a density of over 16 people/km2 were found in several parts of Eurasia, and the interiors of the Americas and Africa were beginning to fill up with densities of over 8 people/km2.

Maps 10.2a-d show comparable changes in land cover or vegetation. Around 1700 and 1800, intensively cultivated cropland was mainly restricted to areas of concentration in Asia and Europe. By 1900, great changes had occurred and intensively used cropland now also covered large parts of North America. Marginal cropland and land used for grazing were also expanding, especially in South America and Australia. These processes of change continued through the 20th century, as shown in map 10.2d, which represents the situation in 1990. By that time, the areas covered by forests and woodlands had also diminished considerably.1

The picture emerging from these maps is one of an anthroposphere that is expanding at an increasingly rapid pace. The earth has become more densely populated by humans and this is reflected in land cover. In this chapter we point to some of the processes behind the changes that have been made visible in the maps. Some of these processes have already been noted in Chapter 9, on Asia. Here the focus will be on industrialization and globalization.

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