Nearly 30 years of satellite photos from around the world arranged as GIFS illustrate our effect on the environment.
The world is a very different place now than it was in 1984; Earth has gone through physical changes thanks to the effect people have on the environment. These GIFS, put together from images collected by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat program, provide more proof that environmental hazards such as global warming and deforestation show no signs of stopping if policies aren’t in place.
The Columbia Glacier in Alaska has been retreating since the ’80s, as the pictures from the Landsat program prove. The glacier has thinned out over the years and retreated at an alarming rate. Barely moving from its discovery in 1794 to 1980, it has lost 1300 feet (400 m) in thickness and 12 miles (20 km) in length.
Lake Urmia in Iran is similarly in danger. The sixth largest saltwater lake in the world (and largest in the Middle East) has dried up significantly, placing Iran on the brink of a water crisis. The United Nations Development program stated Lake Urmia has shrunk by two-thirds since 1997 due to poor water management, agricultural policies, and drought.
Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest used to be 50 million acres, but an area of the rainforest roughly the size of West Virginia disappeared from 1978 to 2003 due to deforestation. The deforestation has slowed thanks to new policies from Brazil’s government, but 17% of the Amazon (equivalent to the size of France, TIME states) is already gone.
Coal is neither sustainable nor eco-friendly. Wyoming has become the coal mining center of the U.S. as it releases less sulfur dioxide in the air than coal from the Appalachians. Coal export terminals on the west coast could make exporting coal across the Pacific a reality; however, environmentalists and organizations oppose this. Oregon’s Department of State Lands recently denied a permit needed to export coal to Asia.
Coal isn’t the only limited resource, though. Water reserves in Saudi Arabia from the last Ice Age will last only 50 years, hydrologists estimate. Saudi Arabia’s irrigation in the desert grows food by by drilling through the desert floor to get to the reserves of water. However, this water is unsustainable. Unfortunately, the region only sees about an inch of rainfall per year.
Not all of this is bad news. Several of the images indicate urban growth, especially more recent growth. Dubai’s expansion happened suddenly, going from 300,000 people in the mid-1980s to over 2 million. The city has the largest mall and theme park, as well as a Legoland park coming in 2016.
Like Dubai, Las Vegas is a city that grew from a desert. Vegas has skyrocketed to become a economic powerhouse, thanks to tourism, attractions, and casinos. The city grew by 100,000 new residents from 2012 to 2014, and more residents are optimistic about markets. Construction jobs continue to grow as more people move to Nevada, and health and education jobs have grown as well. Home sales have improved from 2011, and consumers are more confident about spending money.