Giving Open Space a Chance


Ray Watts, founder of, is a scientist who has worked on such varied subjects as the surface of the moon, glaciology, global change, and the amount of space that is left between roads.  His email is (this link will open your default email client).

Most people are aware of the global-scale changes that humans have imposed on the climate system.  On land, another profound and largely irreversible transformation has been under way.  Climate change and loss of open space are siblings.The invasion of human “stuff,” which geographers call the built environment, has spread across the continents1.  This alteration dramatically accelerated with the industrial revolution, as powerful construction machinery, burning fossil fuels, replaced muscle power.  The climate transformation and the land transformation were—and are—siblings.  As the built environment has penetrated previously empty space, open space has been, and is being, lost. asserts that the invasion of the built environment into previously open land, with roads spearheading that invasion, impact humans as much as climate change—with nearly all consequences being negative. These impacts happen through many avenues:  loss of nature-based aesthetics; No one pays financially for the consequences of loss of open space.loss of ecosystem services; loss of biodiversity; degradation of environmental quality; amplification of and increased exposure to natural hazards; and more—the list is long.  From the start, we make this observation:  no one pays financially for these negative consequences.

Our purpose is to illuminate the social and economic forces that drive invasion and loss of open space, and to contemplate systemic changes that might stem the invasion.

1 Antarctica is the obvious exception.  Yet even there, around its coastline there are dozens of research stations that, as they monitor ecological and climatic change, make their own local changes.