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30 Years Of Images Tell “The Pretty & Not So Pretty” Story Of Earth
May 13, 2013
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Life is constantly changing. Whether it's our neighbourhoods, our technology, or our environment, everything is evolving - and often, very quickly.

At times, it's happening so fast, we lose sight of the big picture and just how dramatic that change actually is.

Well, the timelapse video at the top give us a fascinating perspective of how the planet has been transformed over the past 30 to 40 years.

Back in the early 70s, as part of something called The Landsat Program, NASA launched a series of satellites into space - "with each one orbiting the Earth every 84.3 minutes, revisiting the same part of the planet on average once every 16 days."

All together, the satellites have taken millions of pictures of the Earth.

Now, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey, have put together the best of those images to give us a never-before-seen perspective of Earth's evolution, from 1984 to now.

As TIME puts it, "these Timelapse pictures tell the pretty and not-so-pretty story of a finite planet and how its residents are treating it - razing even as we build, destroying even as we preserve."

In the video, you can see the Alberta Oil Sands expand (at 1:50), Dubai and Shanghai turn into mega-cities (at 2:10), the Amazon Rainforest disappear (at 2:25-2:40), and glaciers melt due to climate change (at 2:45).

You can see major agricultural water projects designed in the desert (at 3:00), artificial cities built in the ocean (at 3:10) and the housing boom in Las Vegas (at 3:17) as Lake Mead (which keeps the entire region hydrated) shrinks.

NASA has also released some spectacular images of our planet that could easily be a work of art. Here are some of them.

This part of Iceland's northern coast resembles a tiger's head with orange, black, and white stripes.

That red line is an interaction of light and cloud in the Canadian Rockies.

The tongue of the Malaspina Glacier, the largest glacier in Alaska, covering 1,500 sq metres.

The Ganges River in India.

The Yukon River starting in northern British Columbia, flowing through Yukon, crossing Alaska and into the Bering Sea.

The Syrian Desert covering parts of Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

If you want to see individual timelapse videos on Extreme Resouces, Climate Change and Urban Expansion, go to world.time.com/timelapse.

As TIME's Senior Science Editor Jeffrey Kluger writes,

"For governments and environmental scientists, there is a lot of arcane data to extract from the maps and movies. For everyone else, there is something subtler but just as important: perspective. We tend our own tiny plots on Earth, our houses and yards often taking up less room than that infield-size pixel. It's only when we get above ourselves -- say, 438 miles above -- that we can see how we're changing our planet and begin to consider how we can be better stewards of it."

The website good.is puts it this way...

"On the one hand they tell the story of man and great civilizations: we build up, around, and out (we watch Dubai create entirely new towns into the ocean); yet we destroy the very land we want to live upon... The shots are at once beautiful and disturbing. The takeaway is that we now have a tool to see up close just how devastating the effects of climate change are. And with that information, hopefully it will encourage us all to be stewards of change whether in our own backyards--on the micro level--or on a larger, macro level."

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