Weekly Links

Forty Percent of Land in America is Dedicated to Cows

Land Use

In America, 100 People Own As Much Land as the State of Florida

From Bloomberg. America loves cows and rich people. Bloomberg put together a series of charts exploring how we use land in America. A few notable points: the 100 largest landowning families own as much land as the land that comprises the State of Florida, urban areas make up 3.6% of land but around 80% of people live on that land, and 41% of our land is dedicated to cows. Think about that. Almost half of the land in America is dedicated to pastures for cows or to growing crops to feed cows.

The 100 largest landowning families own roughly 40 million acres of land. Compare that to the roughly 94 million acres preserved as national parks and wilderness areas. So 100 families own a little less than half the amount of land that governments own for the purpose of preserving it for the other 300+million Americans.

Image Credit: Bloomberg


Ancient Romans Roads Strongly Predict Current European Prosperity

From The Washington Post. Economists in Denmark discovered a positive correlation between ancient Roman roads and modern prosperity. Those areas in Europe with the highest population densities are centered around locations where the ancient Romans invested the most in transportation infrastructure. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising. Since the Romans successfully unified much of Europe for long periods of time, people are reliant on transportation infrastructure for trade (though less so today), cities thrive at the intersection of trade routes (see Atlanta), and people don’t often abandon developed areas absent a catastrophic natural event, it makes sense that modern development would correlate with relatively recent historical development.


California’s Carr Fire Produced Michael Bay’s Version of Twister

From Wunderground. It seems like we say this every year, but California is in the midst of perhaps its worst fire season on record. To add insult to injury, some meteorologists believe Redding, CA recently experienced a fire tornado. California has only recorded two EF-3 tornadoes in state history, so a fire – a fire – may have produced the third recorded tornado of that magnitude.

Fires are notorious for producing their own weather in the form of gusty winds, pyrocumulus clouds, and lighting. Brief spin ups from fires, called “fire whirls,” aren’t that uncommon and can produce strong winds and extend hundreds of feet upwards from the ground. A tornado, on the other hand, is a rotating column of air that extends from a cumuliform cloud down to the ground. This stuff gets technical, so if you want a more accurate explanation please go to the Wunderground article.

On July 26, the Carr Fire produced such a strong updraft that a normal fire-induced pyrocumulus cloud was transformed into something akin to a more traditional supercell thunderstorm that produces actual tornadoes. While fire whirls and landspouts (tornado-like rotating vortex produced from updrafts) rarely produce winds in the EF-2 range (111-135 mph winds), the California fire tornado produced EF-3 level winds of 150 mph and lasted for nearly an hour. Meteorologists are still deciding whether the fire tornado should officially be classified as an actual tornado.

National Weather Service’s initial assessment of the event


Atlanta Was the Nexus of Three Major Native American Tribes

From Native Lands and Kottke.org. We often forget that America was not a sparsely or uninhabited area before Europeans arrived centuries ago. Dozens of communities existed along the east coast consisting of millions of people. The Cherokee usually come to mind when we think of native peoples in Georgia – they were the subject of the court case that led Andrew Jackson to allegedly say “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it,” referring to US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. But Georgia was predominantly dominated by two other communities of people as well: the Chicasaw, and the Muscogee.

Those three groups of people overlapped in the area that is now modern day Atlanta. The site Native Land shows the territory of native communities in America, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s worth exploring if only to get an understanding of the shear number of people who lived here prior to the arrival of Europeans. Also check out Charles C. Mann’s 1491 if you’re interested in learning much more about pre-European America.


The Native American territories of the southeast U.S. Image Credit: Native Lands


Cover Photo Credit: Nicholas Hartmann via Wikipedia


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