Watch A Stunning Video Of Humanity's Effect On Earth

This tour of our glowing transportation and communication networks shows the majesty—and horror—of how mankind has altered the planet.

According to scientists, we’re currently in the geological epoch known as the Holocene, which has lasted for the last 12,000 years. The Holocene encompasses the rise of humanity since the last ice age. But some scientists think we have actually entered a new era, called the Anthropocene—an era in which the world no longer shapes humanity, but in which humanity shapes the world to its own purpose and does so to such an extent that it will have permanent effects of the geological record of our planet.

As scientists debate the merits of declaring we are in a new epoch (these things take time and lots of arguing), humanity plods on, continuing to make a massive impact on the planet. Globaia, an organization devoted to promoting an understanding of "big history," has been working on mapping these impacts. We’ve already featured some of their stunning maps, but now they’ve stitched those together into the beautiful video you see above.

As the animated globe turns, you can see what man has wrought upon the planet. The glowing maps show transportation routes and power grids that span the globe. It’s certainly an impressive accomplishment. You can’t but be in awe of the sheer will and determination and skill it’s taken to create this globalized world. At the same time, it’s hard not to gasp at the scale of what we’ve done.

For some larger context, the video below has a soothing British woman describing a little more about what the Anthropocene means and how it came to be. Check out the rapid rise of our influence on the planet since 1950. In the course of one lifetime, the lives of the vast majority of people have improved dramatically. That’s the good part of the Anthropocene. The bad is that to get there, we’ve had to fundamentally change the planet—its air, water, and land may never be the same.

For more detailed maps, check out our earlier post on Globaia’s work, where you can see individual parts of the world or maps that show, for instance, just air travel.

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  • Chuck

    Mr Xcray thinks it's too inconvenient to change anything in his lifestyle and then goes on to blame the messenger.  Typical Republican.

    The change starts with you.  I've begun already.  I have 36 solar panels that feed my house.  I've built a greenhouse (that I've not yet planted but working on it), I'm on the waiting list for a Nissan Leaf, and we're raising a steer and a pig this year for food (although I'm not sure we'll do that again next year as its so much work).  It's a start.  How will YOU start?

  • Jan Steinman

    Chuck, I appreciate your efforts, but consider that some of them are consumptive efforts, while what is needed is reduced consumption.

    I think raising your own steer and pig, no matter how much work it was, is probably better for the earth than buying a new car or putting solar panels on your roof.

    These days, the second-most revolutionary thing any of us can do is to grow food. (The most revolutionary thing would be to drastically reduce our income, but few are willing to go THAT far!)

  • Mr Xcray

    So you are planning to return to horses and cut all the wires? 
    Or it is just another over-drama for public?
    Or you just did nice picture and try to make a scary short of it?

    I just curious how much watts did YOU spent to do it? Or maybe YOU know how to live without all of that?

    And after such videos we have thousands of people who demands for good ecology but no one from them really knows what to do with that without making additional problems.

  • Kiljoy616

    Nothing comes free comes to mind. It is incredible what we have done now the question is how farther we will go before our own technology hurts us bad.