New photo book shows changes
June 4, 2005
Courtesy U.N. Environment Programme
and World Science staff
A newly published book of satellite photos shows
stark differences in Earth three decades ago and today, as urban sprawl and
environmental damage took their toll.
The book was published by the United Nations Environment
Programme to mark World Environment Day.
Entitled “One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment,” the
tome compares and contrasts spectacular satellite images of the past few decades with contemporary ones, some never
The huge growth of greenhouses in southern Spain, the rapid rise of shrimp farming in Asia and Latin America and the emergence of a giant, shadow puppet-shaped peninsula at the mouth of the Yellow River are among a string of curious and surprising changes seen from space.
They sit beside the more conventional, but no less dramatic images of rain forest deforestation in Paraguay and Brazil, rapid oil and gas development in Wyoming, United States, forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa and the retreat of glaciers and ice in polar and mountain areas.
The atlas, produced in collaboration with organizations including the United States Geological Survey and the NASA, highlights this theme showing the explosive growth and changes around some of the major cities of the world such as Beijing, Dhaka, Delhi and Santiago.
Also covered are developed world cities including Las Vegas, the fastest growing metropolitan area in the United States, and Miami. Miami’s spread westwards may endanger Florida’s famous everglades and their important wildlife and water supplies.
Specially commissioned images of Bucharest, London, Nairobi and San Francisco supplements One Planet Many People.
“People living in San Francisco or London may look at these images of deforestation or melting Arctic ice, and wonder what it has to do with them, that these changes are the result of other people’s lifestyles and consumption habits hundreds and thousands of kilometres away,” said Klaus
Toepfer, the program’s executive director. “But they would be wrong.”
“Cities pull in huge amounts of resources including water, food, timber, metals and people,” he added. “They export large amounts of wastes including household and industrial wastes, wastewater and the gases linked with global warming. Thus their impacts stretch beyond their physical borders affecting countries, regions and the planet as a whole.”
Thus he added, “the battle for sustainable development, for delivering a more environmentally stable, just and healthier world, is going to be largely won and lost in our cities.”