The following is a highlight from the United Nations Environment Programme’s new Atlas, “One Planet Many People Atlas of Our Changing Environment”
The rapid development of Canada’s first diamond mine, located in the Northwestern Territories, is clearly seen from space.
Only a tiny airstrip is seen in the pre-mining image of 1991. Today the Ekati Mine site, including roads and other infrastructure, is clearly visible as a large spreading area of white.
Wildlife officials are radio-tracking caribou herds, which range in size from 350,00 to a million animals, in order to gauge if the mining activities are affecting their behaviour.
The impact of logging on the temperate forests of British Columbia, Canada is also clearly visible by satellites.
The landscape around Great Beaver, Carp and McLeod lakes switches from a reasonably pristine one in 1975 to what is now a brown patchwork quilt due to accelerated logging.
A massive development of oil and gas wells in the Upper Green River, Wyoming, United States, is visible from space.
In 1989 the area, which is home to large herds of migrating pronghorn antelope and mule deer, is seen as a relatively undisturbed landscape.
San Francisco, as seen from space, is a densely populated city with 15,000 people per square mile. It is the second most densely populated area in the United States after New York, which has 24,000 people per square mile.
An image from 2004 tells a different story highlighting the emergence of some 3,000 wells. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the rate of well establishment exceeds its development plan by 300 per cent.
One of the most striking features of satellite images of San Francisco is the preservation of its urban forests over the past 30 years.
The growth of Las Vegas, set in the Nevada desert, has been spectacular since the early 1970s.
In the 1950s it was home to just over 24,000 people. Today, the population tops one million, not including tourists, and may double by 2015.
The images reveal how the city has spread in all directions displacing the few vegetated lands and replacing natural desert with housing and irrigated golf courses.
Lake Meade, formed by the Hoover Dam, dropped 18 meters from 2000 to 2003.
Despite the regions third worst drought in recent history, new golf courses continue to be developed.
The atlas chronicles the growth of the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area over the past 30 years clearly showing the conversion of farmland into cityscapes and the spread of Miami south and west towards the Everglades National Park.
The Everglades is not only home to important wildlife, such as the Florida panther. The Everglades filter groundwater and re-charge the Biscayne Aquifer.
Part of the mission of the Federal “Smart Growth” Task Force is to try and better manage urban sprawl in the area in order protect the Everglades and the ecosystem services it provides.
The publication “One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment ” can be purchased at Earth Print