It was the late 1960s when early satellite images of earth revealed a planet that seemed largely untouched. The picture today is much different. Sure, the imaging technology is much more powerful, but more important, global population is double what is was back then, and the portion of it driving cars and devouring energy is a lot bigger as well. Contemporary satellite images show just how much human activities are impacting the planet we call home.
In an op-ed piece for the The New York Times, writer and photographer Michael Benson--author of "Planetfall: New Solar System Visions"--highlights how recent images from space reveal a planet under duress.
"While our world remains ravishingly beautiful, it increasingly shows symptoms of distress," he writes. "Many of these indicators are the direct result of human activity. Others are the indirect consequence of using our atmosphere as a dumping ground for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."
A brief glance through the photos above underscores his point. Have a look and head over to NYT to read the article and check out the videos Benson made using content from NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. Pretty terrifying, frankly.
Photos, left to right:
Jan. 10, 2013: In this image from NASA's Aqua satellite, haze pollution below the Himalayas blankets Northern India and Bangladesh. (Jeff Schmaltz/NASA)
Oct. 30, 2012: Hurricane Sandy slams into the Northeastern US, as seen in this orthographic projection from NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite. (Norman Kuring/NASA)
1973: Los Angeles smog extends from the San Gabriel Mountains to the coast. (NASA Johnson Space Center)
April 26, 2003: Wildfires and fires from slash-and-burn deforestation, raged through Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and neighboring Guatemala, sending dense plumes of smoke across the Gulf of Mexico. (Jeff Schmaltz, Lucian Plesea/NASA)