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  • 11.25.13

10 Gorgeous And Horrifying Images Of The World’s Altered Landscapes

A new book captures both the obvious and subtle ways that human beings are changing the surface of Earth.

In his new book, Our Beautiful, Fragile World, photojournalist Peter Essick shares an incredible series of nature and environmental photos from his assignments for National Geographic magazine. The images span the globe, showing us the smog-tinged city lights of Los Angeles, the wilderness of the Arctic Circle, and everything in between. They show the beauty of the world when left to its own devices–and the destruction that often occurs when humans decide to meddle with nature.

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In the series of photos from the book seen in the slide show above, Essick takes us on a tour of the world’s altered landscapes, from an eroded hillside in Joshua Tree National Park to an oil sands mining operation in Alberta, Canada’s boreal forest. “Our natural world is constantly changing,” writes Essick. “What is different among landscapes is the rate and degree of change. After viewing the images, it’s impossible not to wonder: how can we do better?”


In the Antarctic, Essick found a peninsula that has experienced particularly severe impacts from climate change, causing an increase in snowfall. That’s made it more difficult for the Adelie penguins to nest in the snow, and now they’re starting to leave. At Lake Erie, Essick captured algae blooms caused from fertilizer run-off:


He writes: “Some change happens slowly by wind and water erosion. Development, resource extraction, and climate warming are causing more rapid changes. These photos show altered landscapes, from the almost pristine to the completely transformed.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.

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