14 Dramatic Photos That Show Our Planet Before and After Human Intervention
Have you ever noticed how much the places we are familiar with have changed over time? Rivers turn into swamps, forests grow in place of disappearing glaciers, and plants appear in the middle of nowhere.
Many of these changes happen on their own. But some of the changes are happening due to human activity: someone plants an entire forest, someone else signs petitions to stop deforestation, and others use bicycles in place of cars.
We at Bright Side believe that even one person can make a huge difference and these pictures from the Images of Change project illustrate this idea.
A drought in Europe was caused by a heat wave in 2018.
The reason: An increase in the average temperature of the planet is caused by the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases. As a result, a huge system of anticyclones and high pressure was formed over Europe causing a heat wave in the summer and a very cold winter.
What will happen in the future: This heat wave will likely reappear every 7 years and this scenario is not new for the planet. About 252 million years ago, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was also higher than usual. It caused the temperature on the planet to increase, which then caused an emission of methane in the Arctic and 97% of all living organisms died. The planet then needed 10 million years to recover from this.
Today the activity of humanity has sped up this process a lot and the climate is changing faster than it would naturally. While people can adjust to climate change they also have the power to slow down or even stop some of these changes.
A giant hydroelectric power plant could flood this territory where 360 million people live.
The reason: The Three Gorges Dam helped China to reduce its amount of greenhouse gas emissions. They increased the depth of the Yangtze River, which cargo ships can now use to deliver goods. The dam protects the villages around it from floods that used to happen every year.
What will happen in the future: During the construction, the natural habitats of many living organisms were destroyed and the soil lost its sludge. So now, since there are no floods, the harvest is not as good and the dam has increased the number of landslides. If something happens to the dam, the territory could flood putting the 360 million inhabitants in danger. This is why the Chinese Army protects this dam.
This prehistoric salt lake disappeared in 3 years.
The reason: Lake Poopó along with lake Titicaca were huge prehistoric lakes that dried up because of how much water was used to irrigate fields and to supply mines nearby. In 1994, the lake disappeared and it took years for it to even partially reappear.
What will happen in the future: In 2016, the lake dried up again and it’s very unlikely that it will reappear any time soon, unless someone does something. The fact that so much water disappeared led to an increase in temperature in the mountains, a decrease in the rainfall in the region, and major changes in the biosphere. For example, flamingos and other birds don’t use this place for rest anymore and the area that has been affected is growing.
A flood caused by the Chinese government and the building of a dam changed the riverbed and the sea borders of the Yellow River.
The reason: The riverbed of the Yellow River has been permanently changed because of a flood that the government of China created on purpose in 1938 to fight Japanese forces. As a result, around 800,000 people died.
The river brings tons of soil from the west and the shape of the gulf the river empties into is changing. The soil near the sea has become fertile so it is now used to build farms for growing plants (represented by the dark blue shapes in the photo).
What will happen in the future: The number of floods will increase because of how many dams are being built. About 2,000 years ago there was a catastrophic flood in this region that caused trouble for 9 million people and the same could happen today.
Svartisen glaciers are turning into forests.
In 1889, this land near the Svartisen glaciers was covered with a thick layer of ice. And 120 years later, there are birch trees and other types of flora present here instead. The glaciers are melting and there are green meadows appearing in their place now.
The reason: Melting is caused by global warming. The Norway Water Resources Authority has been tracking the amount of ice since 1974 in order to try to control the speed at which it melts.
What will happen in the future: Norway receives almost 20% of its electricity from bodies of water that get their water from glaciers. If the speed of the melting increases, it will lead to serious problems with equipment that will stop working with too much water. Floods will start and the local biosphere will change.
The Colorado River Delta emptied into the Gulf of California for the first time in 50 years.
The reason: Before the beginning of the 20th century, the Colorado River emptied into the Gulf of California. But the construction of dams and derivation canals dried it up. As of today, the river has lost 95% of its volume but it still supplies 40 million people with water.
In 2014, the governments of the US and Mexico made a decision to unleash millions of liters of water in order to fill the riverbed and take the first step toward returning this region back to life. So, the river emptied into the Gulf of California for the first time in 50 years.
What will happen in the future: Unless people do something, the river will disappear eventually. Millions of people and agricultural land will lose water, and hundreds of hectares of forests and green meadows will turn into deserts.
This solar station turned a desert into an unlimited source of green energy.
The reason: The Topaz Solar Farm power plant was built in California. The state hopes to be receiving 33% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2020. The construction started in 2011 and just 2 years later, the power plant was able to supply people with electricity. Now, 160 thousand houses are connected to it.
What will happen in the future: Similar projects will reduce the amount of harmful emissions and will allow us to use the land as a natural resource of renewable energy. But of course, people can also do a lot to help the cause.
The corals of the Great Barrier Reef are getting sick because the water is too warm.
The reason: The increase in water temperature in the oceans is leading to the mass extinction of corals. The Great Barrier Reef has already lost about 90% of its corals. When they die, they become dull because the colored seaweed on them dies. Scientists have estimated that by the year 2050, all corals will have died unless people do something.
What will happen in the future: The flora and fauna living in this area will start to die. Some corals can’t be restored without human intervention. The quality of the air we breathe is also in danger: the ocean gives us about 80% of our necessary oxygen. Some countries will experience a decrease in tourism and fishing and the number of storms and hurricanes will increase.
Deserts are starting to have snow in the winter and flowers in the spring.
The reason: The last 20th century snowfall in the Sahara was in February of 1979. In 2016, there was a snowfall again and the situation repeated itself in 2017 and 2018. Because of global warming, the atmospheric pressure in Europe increased and cold air spread further to the South — to North Africa.
The Atacama desert was considered to be the driest in the world. But in 1991 and 1997, there were flowers there because of the unusual rainfall. The same happened again in 2010 and 2015.
What will happen in the future: Human activity will continue to lead to rapid climate change. While there was snow in the Sahara, there was a drought in Europe that killed thousands of living organisms and lead to forest fires and human deaths.
These are mysterious green fields that you can see from above.
The reason: The farmers in Saudi Arabia grow fruit and vegetables in the middle of the desert in order to meet the demand inside the country and sell some of their product to other countries. The underground water sources and a system of crop irrigation have turned part of the desert into fertile fields.
What will happen in the future: If the climate of the region doesn’t change, the amount of underground water is only enough to sustain this for about another 50 years. So, farmers should start using greenhouses or invest their money into other projects that don’t harm the environment.
A hydroelectric power station flooded a territory that is 1/6 the size of Cyprus.
The reason: The Jasyretâ Hydroelectric Power Station is located on the Paraná River, which is the second longest river in South America. It is used to supply both Argentina and Paraguay with electricity. The level of water in the river increased after the construction of a dam. But unfortunately this caused 30,000 people to lose their houses and about 800,000 people are still at risk. The flooded territories were inhabited by jaguars, wolves, giant anteaters, more than 650 kinds of birds, and 10,000 different species of plants.
More than 100 million people and many rare species depend on the condition of this river.
What will happen in the future: The conflict between countries related to the use of the dam will hopefully just lead to its expansion. If the dam gets destroyed due to conflict, it might lead to the world’s biggest industrial accident.
One person planted 550 hectares of forest to save an entire island.
The reason: Jadav Payeng, also known as Molai, saw hundreds of snakes washed ashore due to flooding because the forest on his island had disappeared. Molai was very sad when he found out about this and he started planting trees on the shore. It took several decades for the forest to appear on this more than 550 hectare territory.
What will happen in the future: Thanks to his effort, the forest is now inhabited by Bengal tigers, rhinos, deer, rabbits, a lot of apes, and birds. Hundreds of elephants also live here for 6 months every year knowing that they are under Molai’s protection. Very soon, Molai is planning to plant another forest on the other shore of the river.
This shows just how much one person can actually do.
Bonus: One jar has a jellyfish in it. The other one has plastic. Now imagine you are a hungry turtle...
Are there people in your town or your country like Molai who are not afraid of trying to make this world a better place?
Preview photo credit Plastic Pollutes / twitter