Lifestyles and Global Land-use Change

Heilig, G.K. (1995). Lifestyles and Global Land-use Change. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-95-091

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One of the most influential publications on land-use change is a small booklet, published by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change Programme (HDP). It was written -- as its subtitle says -- as a "proposal for an IGBP-HDP Core Project" on "Relating Land Use and Global Land-Cover Change". The booklet can be seen as some kind of programmatic statement to guide international collaborative research on global land-use change. Unfortunately, the publication promotes a rather biased view of global land-use change. Using questionable statistics the authors conclude that the main focus of research should be the detailed investigation of changes in the rural land use. Urban areas and their infrastructures are considered irrelevant. As a consequence almost all attention is given to arable cultivation and livestock production -- with some interest left over to the forest sector. Population growth and the associate rising food demand are usually considered the main driving forces of global land-use change.

In this chapter I will argue that rural land use is only one of the processes which are shaping the globe's land cover. There are other and probably more important land-use changes which are caused by urbanization, infrastructure expansion, industrial production, or changes in consumption patterns and lifestyles. These changes in build-up land might affect only relatively small areas -- as compared to the huge areas of forests and agricultural land. But they are often much more persistent and intrusive. Once a patch of land is sealed off by tons of concrete or highway pavement it is extremely difficult if not impossible to transform it back into a natural ecosystem. Once a valley was filled up with giga-tons of water for a reservoir or a gigantic hole was dug in an open pit mine, we have an almost irreversible land-cover modification.

Moreover, I will claim that agricultural land-use change is not only caused b increasing food demand due to population growth (as people usually assume) but also by changes in lifestyles and food preferences which are driven b economic modernization and urbanization. The paper presents FAO data whic indicate that probably some 20 percent of the arable land world-wide is alread cultivated for lifestyle-related products, such as drugs, tobacco, coffee, tea sugar beet, sugar cane, cocoa, or cotton. There is a trend towards animal-base food in many parts of the world, notably in China where per capita meat consumption has significantly increased during the past 20 years. In Europe Western Asia, and Northern America changing food preferences have cause growing demand for vegetable oils. These are just the most obvious examples o certain (feed) crop areas, such as the expansion of soybean production i Brazil or the increase of oil crops cultivation in Europe Changes in rural land-use are often caused by driving forces which emanat from the urban centers of industrialized countries.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Modeling Land-Use and Land-Cover Changes (LUC)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:06
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:15

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