Satellite images of Earth
Satellite images of Earth
,show roads, air traffic
cities at night and internet cables
Air traffic routes are shown between North America and Europe. Felix Pharand-Deschenes has created global snapshots depicting how power lines, roads and even air traffic corridors have come to dominate the surface of Earth. His visualisations based on real data show air traffic routes, the underwater cables that carry the internet, road and rail networks and electricity transmission lines all superimposed over cities at night.
Felix’s visualisations showing how human technology has taken over our crowded planet come just one week before the global population is set to top seven billion. The United Nations Populations Fund has revealed that by October 31st, there will be an extra billion people on the Earth compared to 1999.
Major road and rail networks in Europe, along with transmission line and underwater cable data, superimposed over satellite images of cities illuminated at night
Felix used US government sources like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Oceanic for railways, pipelines and roads as well as the Atmospheric Administration for the air traffic to piece together the visualisations.
Human technology presence over North America superimposed over satellite images of cities illuminated at night
“These pictures show several sides of global human activities,” said 34-year-old Felix, from Montreal, Canada. “We see everything from paved and unpaved roads, light pollution, railways, electricity transmission lines. All the way to submarine cables, pipelines, shipping lanes and air traffic. The show the extent of our civilisation, the patterns of our global sprawl, how human-influenced our planet now is.”
Human technology presence over Asia at night
Felix is the founder and director of Globaia, an organisation that seeks to enhance awareness of the impact and role of the human race on our world. He has spent 13 years researching and presenting his theories to students, fellow academics and the general public. “During this time I have been designing and presenting conferences on the global issues of our time,” said Felix. “I believe a picture is worth a thousand words, so I slowly started to improve my design skills to be able to show what I was explaining.”
Human technology presence over Africa at night
“There is a growing number of global datasets showing the extent of our ecological footprint,” he said. “These are numbers and tables but I decided to use these datasets and to present them in a more realistic way. I started to gather data from numerous sources and to explore ways of assembling them.”
Road and rail networks in South America superimposed over satellite images of cities illuminated at night
During his research Felix found that over three per cent of the world’s land surface has now been covered in tarmac. This amounts to 1.7 million square miles and is a greater land area than the whole of India.
Human technology presence over Australasia at night
Despite the threat to nature that this rise of humanity represents, Felix is positive about the legacy of our species. “Today’s global civilisation is the work of billions of people throughout history,” he said. “It has been established through much effort, successes and sufferings – as well as wars, inventions, exchanges, crisis and socio-technological changes. The world at the start of the 21st Century is also the result of what we call the Great Acceleration – the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in history. Many human activities reached take-off points sometime in the mid-20th Century and sharply accelerated towards the end of the century.”
Air traffic routes over sea around North and South America
Road and rail networks and cities illuminated at night in Europe, along with transmission lines and underwater cables
Human technology presence over North America
Major road and rail networks in Africa, along with transmission line and underwater cable data
Major road and rail networks in Australasia, along with transmission line and underwater cable data