Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh
Chapter 37: Land Use and Environmental Quality
William B. Meyer 1. Introduction The term ‘land use’ refers to a set of human activities that exploit the varied resources offered by the biophysical features of land cover. Because all human activities require the land resources of horizontal space and vertical support, ‘land use’, interpreted generously, could become an unmanageably inclusive term. Traditionally, and more usefully, it has been reserved for a set of activities whose connections with the biophysical character of the land cover are particularly direct and intimate: agriculture, livestock rearing, forestry. These activities are of interest to environment-society researchers in many ways, ranging from the constraints placed on crop production by environmental variables of climate, soil, and pests and diseases to the impacts on water quality, atmospheric composition, and global climate of emissions from farms and feedlots and from forest clearance and thinning. Within the framework of this volume, these linkages between land use and environment are covered under other headings. The present section will discuss very briefly the current state of inquiry into non-residential land use, especially at the global level. The focus of the chapter thereafter will instead be on the best-studied and most salient remaining form of land use related to environment-residential settlement. Inasmuch as residential settlement always competes with other possible uses of the land, it and they cannot be fully understood outside of a unifying framework that incorporates them all. The development of such a framework at the global scale is one of the aims stated in the recent science plan...
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