Significant man-made changes on Earth

By Melissa Zahorujko

Both NASA and the US Geological Survey have been recording satellite images of the Earth’s surface since 1972 as part of the Landsat Program—the longest running space-based record of our land and seas.

Through analysis of the satellite imagery and data provided by the Landsat Program, scientists are able to evaluate changes in the world and release important information to areas of research such as agriculture, forestry and regional planning.

To the public eye, however, the millions of recorded images give us access to a captivating timelapse of the world in 41 years and counting. We now have a detailed picture of the impact we as humans have on changing our world.

Below are just a couple of the world’s significant changes that have occurred as a result of human activity:

Amazon Deforestation

amazon 1
July 20, 2000
amazon 2
August 2, 2010

These images show the destruction of forests between 2000 and 2010 in the state of Rondônia—one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon—where there is a significant loss of greenery noticeable in the images. Deforestation has known to be a major cause of animal and plant extinction all over the world.

Athabasca Oil Sands

athabasca 1
July 1984
athabasca 2
May 2011

These images show an enormous growth in mines around the Athabasca River in Canada between 1984 and 2011. Buried deep below the surface of the area lies one of the world’s largest and most valuable sources of oil. Not only do these expensive mines emit toxins that may pose health hazards, but they also required large-scale clearing before they could be used.

While a lot of environment-altering human activity can be seen as useful to our ever-growing society, the consequences must be considered.

Perhaps it’s a point to think about when looking towards the future of our global environment—will the expansion rate of urbanisation ever slow down or will our world be subject to an eternity of massive man-made changes?

What will Earth look like 100 years from now?

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