The Earth at Night

2001-01-10

I've been mesmerized of late by this image (warning, it's big!), which is a composite image of the earth at night. It gives such a clear picture of the extent of human expansion and the spread of technology. I'm sure that some of those of the green persuasion would use this as Exhibit A in their indictment of humankind's rape of the earth, but I just find it utterly fascinating to gaze at (though I've always loved maps and used to spend hours poring over atlases, so I guess there's nothing unusual about this recent behavior of mine). Look for example at the stark contrast between the northern and southern parts of the Korean peninsula, where a sharp line divides the advanced south from the primitive north. The image gives proof of the fact that most of the people in Canada live quite close to the U.S. border (though the only place where you can really see the border is near northern New England, where the borderlands are sparsely populated in the U.S. but densely populated (relatively speaking) on the Canadian side). Here too we see that Africa is truly the dark continent, with very few areas lit up at night. I wonder what such a composite image will reveal in 10 or 20 or 50 years. A time-lapse composite image will make fascinating viewing in 2050 or so....


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal