Tuesday, July 31, 2018

How Land is Used in America

Interesting graphic from Bloomberg, via Kottke. You may need to click on this to be able to read it.


G. Verloren said...

I hate how they chose to lay this out.

At first skim, I actually assumed it was a comedic oversimplification of regional land usage, like those political cartoons you sometimes see. The kinds of "humorously" labeled maps where "Florida = Oranges" and "California = Hippies", et cetera.

But no, it's just supposed to be depicting relative sizes of different categories against each other, but for some bizarre reason instead of making it clean, organized, and readable, they overlaid the different data chunks on top of the actual map of the country and various states, and sort of vaguely aligned each region with parts of the country where each label sort of applies, as though it were the most prevalent form of land usage in that region.

To be fair, I could see some value in strict categorical comparatives to various states, like saying "The 100 largest landowning families own a greater area of land than the entire state of Florida". But the way things are actually laid out is just generally confusing, hard to parse, and makes comparison between different categories inconvenient and inaccurate. In my opinion this is one of the worst possible ways they could have chosen to convey this information.

G. Verloren said...

I'm also confused by certain aspects of the map. They include Rural Highways... but not other roadways? Do those get swallowed up in things like "Urban Commercial" and "Urban Housing"?

What is "Defense"? Is that military controlled land only? Or does it also include land owned by private "defense" companies, security companies, et cetera?

What about things like police? Fire departments? City halls? Court houses? Schools? Libraries? Hospitals? Other civic buildings and government properties of that sort? Do those constitute too small an area to display? Or are they perhaps incorporated into other categories?

What the heck are "farmsteads" in this context? We have all these other specific agricultural categories, so what's with this highly generalized "farmstead" category? Is that referring to the land taken up by all the actual farm buildings of the country, separate from the cropfields or pasturelands themselves? Why would you bother to filter out that land when tallying up the land devoted to cows, or corn, or whatever else, only to then lump the combined farmsteads of every different kind of agriculture into a single grouping? Surely it just makes more sense to count cow barns as part of the total cow farmland, et cetera?

What is the category "corn syrup" telling us? Is that the amount of cropland used to grow corn which is earmarked for being turned into syrup? Or is that the area of land devoted to the actual processing, production, storage, et cetera?

Why are wetlands and deserts lumped together? Surely it would make more sense to split them up. Also, what qualifies as "desert" in this usage? Surely plenty of "Urban Housing", "Urban Commercial", et cetera, exists in deserts. Does this category include onl the unused land around places like Salt Lake City or Las Vegas, and not include the occupied land actually contained within those cities? Or does this category perhaps account for both?

What about other terrain features that aren't fully useable by humans? Lakes? Rivers? Mountains? Glaciers? Canyons and gullies? Nuclear test sites? Sprawling kudzu infestation biomasses? Even just ordinary forest and woodland not owned federally or used for timber?