An oil-sands mine operated by Suncor strips the boreal forest growing in the top soil in order to get to the bitumen layer below. Four tons of soil is moved for each barrel of oil recovered.

The Kalmiopsis Wilderness in Oregon is one of the wildest and most biologically diverse areas in the lower 48 states.

Erosion slowly changes the hillside in the desert environment in Joshua Tree National Park, California.

Mining in Butte, Montana, since the 19th century has left a legacy of toxic tailings.

A plant powered by coal in Conesville, Ohio, looms large over the small town. The burning of carbon is warming our atmosphere and changing our climate at a rapid rate.

A meltdown in Reactor 2 on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979 has left two unused cooling towers and a legacy of the potential dangers of nuclear power

This part of the Antarctic peninsula has experienced a high degree of climate warming causing an increase in snowfall. The Adelie penguins find it difficult to nest in the snow and most have most southward to better nesting sites.

Near Manaus, Brazil, a section of the Amazon rainforest is converted to farmland by slash-and-burn methods. This land use change is a factor in the overall increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Old-growth trees are stacked in the Pine Falls Log Yard near Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada.

Runoff of nitrogen-rich fertilizer from farmland causes a late summer algae bloom in Lake Erie, Ohio.



10 Gorgeous And Horrifying Images Of The World's Altered Landscapes

A new book captures both the obvious and subtle ways that human beings are changing the surface of Earth.

In his new book, Our Beautiful, Fragile World, photojournalist Peter Essick shares an incredible series of nature and environmental photos from his assignments for National Geographic magazine. The images span the globe, showing us the smog-tinged city lights of Los Angeles, the wilderness of the Arctic Circle, and everything in between. They show the beauty of the world when left to its own devices—and the destruction that often occurs when humans decide to meddle with nature.

In the series of photos from the book seen in the slide show above, Essick takes us on a tour of the world's altered landscapes, from an eroded hillside in Joshua Tree National Park to an oil sands mining operation in Alberta, Canada's boreal forest. "Our natural world is constantly changing," writes Essick. "What is different among landscapes is the rate and degree of change. After viewing the images, it's impossible not to wonder: how can we do better?"

In the Antarctic, Essick found a peninsula that has experienced particularly severe impacts from climate change, causing an increase in snowfall. That's made it more difficult for the Adelie penguins to nest in the snow, and now they're starting to leave. At Lake Erie, Essick captured algae blooms caused from fertilizer run-off:

He writes: "Some change happens slowly by wind and water erosion. Development, resource extraction, and climate warming are causing more rapid changes. These photos show altered landscapes, from the almost pristine to the completely transformed."

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