IS LAND DIFFERENT FROM OTHER RESOURCES?
Many people consider land to be a special kind of resource. But like other natural
resources, land is the result of the human creative process, as discussed in chapters
1-3. Though the stock of usable land seems fixed at any moment, it is constantly
being increased - at a rapid rate in many cases - by the clearing of new fields or the
reclamation of wasteland. Land also is constantly being enhanced by increasing the
number of crops grown per year on each unit of land, and by increasing the yield per
crop with better farming methods and with chemical fertilizer.
Last but not least, land is created anew where there was none. For example, much of
Holland originally belonged more to the sea than to the land. "According to strict
geographical determinism, one would expect to find there nothing but a fever-ridden
delta and lagoons, the undisputed domain of sea fowl and migratory birds. Instead, we
find a prosperous and densely-peopled country, with in fact the highest densities of
population in Europe." The new land was won by diking and draining. "This is
essentially a triumph of human will, it is the imprint of civilization on the
landscape." A hundred years ago someone said of the Netherlands, "This is not soil,
it is the flesh and blood and sweat of men."
Modern Japan is applying the lesson of Holland. When land around Tokyo becomes
scarce and extraordinarily expensive, the Japanese build an artificial island in Tokyo
Bay and contemplate large floating structures, including perhaps an airport. And Hong
Kong is planning to build a new airport on reclaimed land just off one of its islands.
Holland was created by muscle power. But the potential for creating new land has
increased as new power sources and our knowledge and machinery have developed. In the
future, the potential for creating new and better land will be even greater. We will
make mountains where there now is water, learn new techniques of changing the nature
of soils, and develop our ability to transport fresh water to arid regions.
Extending the process into a third dimension which Holland demonstrated in two
dimensions, the capacity to grow food in multilevel structures with the use of
artificial light (see the discussion of Phytofarm in chapter 6) means that the supply
of effective agricultural land can be expanded without limit - that is, it is not
finite. This is no pipedream, but a demonstrated reality that is economic even at