Ecologic and Economic Hinterlands

Economic Generators and Entropic Black-holes

Economic and Ecologic Interpretations of Agglomeration Landscapes and Operational landscapes


The economic interpretation of the geospatial distribution of value is typically represented through the global GDP. Spikes of economic activity appear to be clustered together within large, dense, urban nodes around the world. Here, urban space is envisioned as a zone in which high value-added forms of economic activity and consumption are clustered together in dense, nodal agglomerations. In this conception, the entire world economy has been effectively disaggregated into an assemblage of cities, surrounded by an apparently unproductive, empty and remote global hinterland. While this visualization of cities as economic generators productively illuminate the centrality of place under contemporary capitalism, they embrace a resolutely city-centric approach that obscures the variegated operational landscapes which support the agglomeration processes being depicted.


Geospatial Distribution of world GDP

An alternative way of understanding the relationship between agglomerations and operational landscapes is by grasping the ecological value that is produced and appropriated in the world. The second visualization corresponds to the main ecological interpretation of agglomerations and their global hinterland. It shows the geospatial distribution of the global production and harvesting of biomass serving as a proxy of the ecological value that is produced over an extensive continuum of operational landscapes, areas of agriculture, forestry and in general biomass extraction. Based on a dataset of the Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP) it aims to offer an inverted image of the value producing areas, highlighting areas of intense agricultural production and forestry. Thus, ecological value is extracted from these landscapes and consumed in areas of dense population concentration.

Geospatial Distribution of world ecological production HANPP

According to this ecological interpretation, agglomerations, the generators of economic value (GDP) are ‘entropic black holes’, consuming ecological value (biomass) produced over a much wider territory. From spikes in the economic landscape, agglomerations become black holes, while the ‘mountains’ of ecological value generation are spread over the entire part of the used area of the planet.  The third visualization presents this contradiction in the form of a cave model, with ‘stalagmites’ and ‘stalactites’ corresponding to ecological consumption and production.

A ‘cave’ model of the ecological interpretation of agglomerations and their operational landscapes. Stalagmites and stalactites correspond to agglomeration areas as entropic black holes (top), consuming biomass that is produced over the ecologically generative operational landscapes (bottom).