Global rural populations will peak in the 2020s, leading to mass abandonment of rural lands.(Data Source: UN Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division)I have an article up at GOOD magazine about the abandoned rural lands and how to manage them for ecosystem services:

Brazil has had a declining rural population since 1990. Even as loggers and farmers cut and burn ancient rainforest in the south, emigrants leave northern farmlands fallow. In China, between just 2000 and 2008, the countryside lost 86 million people. The United Nations projects that the world’s total rural population will begin to decline in the 2020s. In only seven countries– Rwanda, Uganda, Guinea, Niger, Afghanistan, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea–will rural populations continue to grow after 2050….

The millions of acres left abandoned represent a changed relationship with the landscape and a societal and economic opportunity. We can use these lands to re-invest in natural capital and biodiversity but to be successful, such land restoration will not be a passive process. It will require active management, capital, skill, and technology, but it will leave us safer, healthier, and more prosperous….

Read the whole thing.  

A lot of my thinking in this piece comes from conversations with UC Davis professor Truman Young, as well as a visit we had from Richard Hobbs of the University of Western Australia.  Thanks to both for their insight.