"Nearly 21% of the land is now national parks"
This really confuses me. A part of the "land" "IS" "parkS"?! Shouldn't it be like "21% of the lands are now parks"?
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It's simply because "land" acts as a collective noun / general noun in this sentence. Compare it to the sentence:
50% of the population is in poverty
It would not make sense to say "are" because there are not multiple "lands".
However, you could reorder the sentence to avoid the awkwardness:
National parks comprise nearly 21% of the land.