Bright Side

15 Pictures Showing How Our Planet Has Changed Over the Last 50 Years


It sounds unbelievable, but a recent survey shows that the past 50 years of science and production progress pushed the world to a new geological epoch! As a rule, we underestimate humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and wildlife. But do we notice changes in ourselves? Believe us, the last years were marked by various dramatic transformations that not only affected the planet, but humanity as well.

Bright Side offers you to look through the many positive and negative changes that have taken place on Earth and in humanity for the past 50 years.

NASA "before and after" images devoted to the planet's surface transformations:

1. Drying lakes

Poopó is Bolivia’s second-largest lake and has always been an important fishing resource for its local people. Now Poopó has essentially dried up because of mining and agriculture. It is interesting that this is not the first time that the lake has evaporated. The last time Poopó dried up in 1994, it took several years for water to return, and even longer for ecosystems to recover.

2. Melting Glaciers

This is the popular Swiss ski resort, Matterhorn Mountain. Take a look at the amount of snow that remained there in August of 1960 (left) compared to August of 2005 (right).

3. Air pollution reduction

Not all the ways we're transforming the Earth are negative. For example, satellite data from NASA revealed a great reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution from cars and power plants in the United States between 2005 and 2011. Since 2005, the American government has implemented an environmental reform package and many electric utilities have shifted from coal to natural gas operation.

4. The Great Man-Made River

To expand farming in the region, the Libyan government developed the world’s largest irrigation project called the Great Man-Made River. These photos prove that the project has boosted agricultural growth in the region since 1983.

5. Turning deserts into farmland

These photos of the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin in Saudi Arabia show the dramatic transformation the desert has undergone over the past 30 years. This region has been developed into a real farmland! Local government decided to tap water reserves up to a kilometer deep underground to allow farmers to grow fruits and vegetables in the desert.

6. Urbanization

These images show the large-scale urbanization of the city of Binhai, China. Since 1990, Binhai has been transformed from a swampy region into a huge economic zone. Currently, it is a home to various aerospace, chemical, and other manufacturing companies.

7. Artificial islands

To promote beach tourism, the Dubai government built a huge number of artificial islands along the coast, 2.5 million-sq-ft in total. The most famous islands are shaped like palm trees. As the satellite photos above show, the growth of Dubai on land has been no less significant, with barren desert replaced by irrigated land and roads.

Smart illustrations explaining how humans have changed over the last 50 years:


The past 50 years are marked with unbelievable science and innovation progress. Just think about it - not so long ago, very few of us had cell phones, people only dreamt about self-driving cars, and the internet was just a distant idea.

Now we can’t even remember the last time we didn’t use our cell phones for a day. Almost 3.5 billion people around the world are using the internet constantly.

9. Information society

In modern times, information has become more accessible than it ever has before, letting us get anything we want in one click. It sounds great, but almost all of us have overdosed on information. There are e-mails and messages in social networks to answer, YouTube videos to watch, magazines and books to read - and that's only the virtual side of life! Information overload is one of the biggest challenges to modern people, and it can be solved only by our own ability to have permanent self-control, set goals and rightfully select information.

10. Communication

There are 3 billion social network users overall around the world. Now social media is one of the most influential applications of the internet. On the one hand, communication is cheap and easy now, and even distance doesn’t matter. On the other hand, verbal communication has decreased dramatically from just 20 years ago when people preferred face-to-face interaction.

11. Activities

Leisure activities have changed over the last few decades too. While our parents most likely enjoyed outdoor activities, we don’t have to leave our homes at all thanks to TV, internet, and video games. It sounds depressing, but things aren't all that bad! For example, a recent survey suggests that playing video games makes the brain regions responsible for attention and visuospatial skills more efficient.

Of course, there is still a risk of video game addiction. So we should always keep in mind that less is more!

12. Fashion

In earlier times, textiles and clothing styles were one of the most obvious indicators of cultural identity. Over the past several decades, the rapid rise of globalization caused fashion to spread across global cultures and mirror changes in the economy, culture, and daily life.

13. Parenting

Parenting has changed a lot over the years as well. And yes, this is largely due to advancements in technology as well! While outdoor activities and reading books still play a very important role in children's development, most parents often rely on various gadgets to engage their kids. Some experts argue that children should not be exposed to screens at all, while others believe it is not a problem as long as the children’s activities are varied and well-balanced.

14. Population aging

The world is getting older, rapidly. People ages 60 and older make up 12% of the global population. It is the fastest growing group and by the year 2050, that number can rise to almost 22%.

Population aging is a result of years of scientific and social development. Better nutrition, health care, education and economic wellbeing make people's lives longer and healthier.

15. Social issues

New social issues arise with every new generation. The past half-century was marked by significant success in this field. People have made good progress in the realms of race, age, gender, religion and sexual orientation equality.

As we know, society is far from perfection. But not so long ago, our grandmothers and even mothers could only dream of paid employment outside the home.

Then there are things that will never change...

What changes in Earth and humanity have you noticed? Feel free to share your views in the comments!

Preview photo credit @NASA
Illustrated by Natalia Tylosova for Bright Side