Monday, October 20, 2008

France is Larger than Russia or Canada


I went to a conference of geographers this weekend and learned one fascinating fact: France is larger than either Canada or Russia.

The reasoning goes this way: All the land that is more than, say, 1.5 miles away from a road is useless. Nobody lives there. You can't farm it or mine it. It does nothing for you and might just as well be absent. So imagine a map that erased all that land. France would remain almost intact because there are roads everywhere. But huge chunks of Canada or Russia (such as the taiga shown here) would vanish, leaving those countries even smaller than France. And for practical purposes, that land is already absent, or (even worse) useless. It just prolongs every trip across the country.

Maybe we'll find things to use in those places sometime -- but when we do, we'll have to build roads to get to them.

Isn't that interesting? It was the most intriguing thought I encountered all weekend.

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2 Comments:

Blogger dheinrich said...

The term "useless land" is unfortunate, in that it reinforces the outdated idea that land is only valuable when humans are directly exploiting it. Obviously it has ecological values beyond that, as a mechanism for purifying our air and water for instance, or just maintaining habit for threatened species. A better description than "useless land" might rather be unused land, or even "pre-used," given the way things are going.

Cheers,

Dieter Heinrich

7:46 PM  
Blogger Metta Spencer said...

Yes, you're quite right, Dieter. I should have called it "unused" land. Of course wilderness is worth preserving. But I've read today that, whereas Russia has 1/7 of the world's land, only 1/3 of it is available to be used, and the huge distance across the whole country is a problem, especially since it is so cold and the transportation can be so expensive and time-consuming. That's the issue that was on my mind when I wrote this.

6:45 PM  

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