Using Earth, Transforming Earth

183 USGS/EROS Data Center

Patterns of agriculture: Garden City, Kansas. US, 2000. Agriculture is the most widespread use of land by humans, consuming huge amounts of water. With hundreds of irrigated fields, Kansas is the wheat capital of the US. Here, crops appear in bright red, while light-colored fields are fallow or have been harvested.

With global population approaching 7 billion, humans use over 40% of Earth’s land surface for cities, crops and pastures. And 90% of the land suitable for agriculture is already in use! What will life on Earth be like in 2050, when the human population could reach 9 billion or more?

Decisions about future use and care of our planet’s systems—the water, the air, the land—are critical. Many believe human creativity, innovation and leadership can and must lead the way to a future in which our planet’s systems are nurtured even as they sustain the growing human population.