A new atlas produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) combines striking satellite images and rigorous data to present a unique and complex view of environmental changes taking place in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The atlas, Latin America and the Caribbean Atlas of our Changing Environment, uses over 200 images to highlight the region’s diverse ecosystems and the transformations which so many are experiencing. High levels of deforestation can be seen in images of Brazil, Mexico, Haiti, Guatemala, and Bolivia. The impact of mining is evident in Peru and Colombia. Loss of biodiversity, degradation of coastlines, and changes in land use can be seen in many nations. It shows environmental changes using photos from different satellites, some taken over many years and others over a few days. Through images, maps, tables, graphs and text, it presents a changing picture of Latin America and the Caribbean, then and now.
The atlas covers 33 countries and is composed of three parts. The first focuses on the native richness of the region, the second describes the environmental issues affecting it, and the third presents in-depth analysis of the those issues for 65 specific national cases.
Forest cleared for soy production, Brazil. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
The atlas helps draws attention to issues affecting the region. For instance, poor urban planning has made Latin American cities the densest in the world, presenting major problems for proper waste management and waste water treatment. Desertification is evident in many countries, currently affecting more than 600 million hectares in arid, semiarid and subhumid areas in the region. The alteration of land for agriculture use is growing at profound rates.
Atlases for other regions are also available and can be viewed in multiple formats, including Google Earth. To try it out, go to http://www.cathalac.org/lac_atlas/.