What Humans Are Really Doing to Our Planet, in 19 Jaw-Dropping Images

Source: Foundation for Deep Ecology

Last week, Pope Francis and church officials encouraged everyone to consume less and think more about our impact on the environment.

It's a timely warning because the next six months will be critical to our future.

Ahead of a series of major events later this year, The Foundation for Deep Ecology and the Population Media Center released a collection that illustrates the devastating effects of out-of-control growth and waste, and it's breathtaking.

"This is an issue that people care about, and oftentimes it's just not discussed by mainstream media," Missie Thurston, director of marketing and communications at the Population Media Center, told Mic.

It's difficult to always know the impacts of our daily choices, like the real effect of buying a bottled water or an extra TV or laptop. With 220,000 more people on the planet every day, and the average person generating over 4 pounds of waste a day — an almost 60% increase since 1960 — the impact of that growth and change in behavior is rarely seen like this. 

Electronic waste, from around the world, is shipped to Accra, Ghana, where locals break apart the electronics for minerals or burn them. 

Mexico City, Mexico, one of the most populous cities in the Western Hemisphere.

New Delhi, India, where many landfills are reaching a breaking point. The surrounding population of Delhi totals some 25 million people

Los Angeles, California, which is famous for sometimes having more cars than people.

Kern River oil field, California, USA.

Former old-growth forest leveled for reservoir development, Willamette National Forest, Oregon, per the Population Media Center.

Coal power plant, United Kingdom. The tall center structure is a stack from the plant, while the surrounding structures are its cooling towers.

North East Land, Svalbard, Norway, where rising global temperatures are fundamentally changing the ecology.

The world's largest diamond mine, Russia.

Amazon jungle burns to make room for grazing cattle, Brazil.

Tar sands and open pit mining in an area so vast, it can be seen from space. Alberta, Canada.

Tires discarded in Nevada.

Vancouver Island, Canada.

Industrial agriculture in Almeria, Spain, stretches for miles.

Tar sands, Alberta, Canada.

A man turns away from the smell of the Yellow River in China.

Bangladesh, where much of the world's clothing and goods are manufactured.

Black Friday, Boise, Idaho.

A remote bay in Java, Indonesia, where local residents, without infrastructure for waste disposal, discard waste directly into streams and rivers.

The rest of the year is going to be critical. In September, world leaders will try and agree on sustainable development goals that will take us through 2030. In December, in Paris, the United Nations will attempt to finally set binding limits on pollution. 2015 will dictate how we address our degrading planet over the next few decades.

The Population Media Center and partners hope these photos will help generate awareness and action. Because as the word spreads, so does the will to make sure we never have to see images like these again.

Correction: May 7, 2015
An earlier version of this article included an image by photographer Daniel Dancer that attributed the scene to industrial logging in Oregon's Willamette National Forest. The image depicted a reservoir created by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Michael McCutcheon

Michael was formerly special projects editor at Mic. Prior to that, he worked at the Open Society Foundations on electoral reform. A native Seattleite, he's still mad about the SuperSonics.

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