One planet, many people

2 04 2007

Atlas cover

There remain plenty of people who find it difficult to imagine humans having any appreciable impact on a planet the size of Earth.   Myself, I find analogies useful at times.  Particularly striking is the comparison that if the Earth were the size of a desktop globe, the atmosphere (as we commonly understand it) would be about the thickness of the layer of varnish on that globe (source: An inconvenient truth– Al Gore)

Another way of reminding ourselves of the impact we humans have had is through photography from the air or from space.  The United Nations Environment Program has produced a book entitled “One planet, many people: Atlas of our changing environment”.  Although the hardcover edition costs $150 US dollars, the UN has made the contents available (as jpegs and as powerpoint presentations) free on it’s website.  The images are characterised by “before and after” shots taken over thirty years from many parts of the planet.  The changes in geography are starkly evident.

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3 responses

3 04 2007
John Feeney

Wow, some of those photo comparisons are amazing. In some it’s a little hard to tell exactly what you’re seeing, thought the transformation is clear. Others are easy to interpret. The ones showing the growth of major cities are pretty startling.

3 04 2007
Verdurous

Its a little like looking at a road accident. Sense of shock, hard not to look but revolted at the same time. I guess many of these photos serve your blog’s themes very well John.

4 04 2007
John Feeney

Yeah, I may find a place for some of these photos in some future post. I’m reminded of a video I saw some time ago on the growth/sprawl of Phoenix, Arizona where I grew up. It shows the city’s growth in a kind of animation that is similarly fascinating and shocking at the same time:

http://sciencebulletins.amnh.org/bio/v/sprawl.20050218/

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