In the interest of living up to our reputation for providing the occasional sliver of cheery environmental news, Grist is pleased to report that notwithstanding rampant ecological degradation, nearly half of the land on Earth remains undeveloped and unpopulated, according to an international study released earlier this week. The study — the most comprehensive such analysis to date — was greeted with surprise by many scientists, but it was also viewed as a wake-up call, because only 7 percent of the 46 percent of the Earth that is still wild is protected. For a given area to qualify as wilderness under the terms of the study, it had to be at least 3,800 square miles in size, accommodate fewer than two people per square mile, and have at least 70 percent of its original vegetation. In total, some 26 million square miles made the grade, about a third of them in the Antarctic and the Arctic tundra. “A lot of the planet is still in pretty decent shape,” said Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International, which organized the study involving 200 scientists.