The Pennsylvania Desert

If you live in most of Eastern North America, you have more trees around than someone in the same place a hundred years ago; in some places, than two hundred years ago.

Here for example, is Pine Creek Gorge, Pennsylvania, around a hundred years ago and today.


This is partially due to increased farm productivity (and less farming in the East), partially due to more and better fossil fuels.

One of the underrated causes of death in poor countries– around 4 million premature deaths per year, by some estimates— is exposure to inefficient indoor fires and stoves burning wood, charcoal, and dung. It seems unlikely to me that renewable energy will replace biomass for very poor people any time soon, but gas lines conceivably could, at least in part.

It would also mean a lot more trees.

4 thoughts on “The Pennsylvania Desert

  1. I think it was one of James Burke’s many Connections series that introduced me to the massive deforestation the Industrial Revolution wrought on the US and England, which was then largely ameliorated by increasing use of coal.


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