To understand the 4.5 billion years of the earth’s past and predict what may happen to the planet and its inhabitants in the future, scientists across different disciplines think about divisions of geologic time such as epochs. These chapters of the earth’s history are associated with major climatic changes and the arrival or disappearance of species in the fossil record.
The most recent epoch, the Holocene, began at the end of the last ice age, approximately 12,000 years ago. In recent years, scientists have debated the need to mark the emergence of a new epoch that reflects humanity’s broad global effects: the Anthropocene. Those in favor of doing so argue that topographic changes to the earth and increasing global temperatures caused by emissions from human activity worldwide are measurable signs that our planet is on the cusp of a new geologic chapter.
In this collection, photographer Tom Hegen brings a graphic design eye to his landscape images and captures the views of the Anthropocene from above using helicopters and drones. “I photograph landscapes that have been heavily transformed by human intervention and show places where nature is channeled, regulated and controlled,” Hegen says. “I would like to inspire people to look closer at the impact we have on our environment and ask if, and how, we could assume responsibility.”
Marble mine in Alicante, Spain. Studies that use satellite data may help researchers assess the global mining sector’s impact on the environment.
Quarry in the state of Bavaria in Germany. In describing this photograph, Hegen has said that a huge amount of raw materials are required to construct growing cities.
Because of its large size, this Dutch tulip field looks like a woven tapestry in this aerial view. The Netherlands produces billions of tulips annually.
Farmlands across Spain, such as this area in Zaragoza, are susceptible to drought. A method called dry farming allows for crop cultivation with limited water resources.
Glaciers, such as this one in Iceland, are markers of global warming as they lose ice mass. Rising temperatures resulting from human emissions have led to a high annual loss of glacial ice.
Solid ice and melted ice water visually contrast in Greenland. Arctic summer sea ice has declined by more than 10 percent each decade since the 1970s.
These patterns form as Icelandic glaciers melt and release water across black volcanic sand, Hegen wrote on his Web site. He described the meandering blue lines as “veins.”
Lignite-mining pollution is causing discoloration of this river in Dresden, Germany, Hegen says. This kind of mining drainage is extremely acidic and full of sulfate.
Science in Images is a new category of articles featuring photographs and videos from all the disciplines of science. Click on the button below to see the full collection.