When astronauts first went to the moon, the sight of Earth as a tiny blue sphere was such a transformative experience that it was later given a name: The “overview effect.” Seen from a distance, surrounded only by a sliver of atmosphere, the planet suddenly seemed more vulnerable. Inspired by the same idea, a new website called Daily Overview also shows shots of Earth from above.
“Unless you spend most of your time in an airplane, your everyday perspective is limited to the surface of the Earth, and specifically to your line of sight,” says Benjamin Grant, who launched the site last month. “From down here it’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty and intricacy of the things we’ve constructed, the sheer complexity of the systems we’ve developed, or the devastating impact that we’ve had on our planet.”
Every day, Grant posts a new satellite image captured from Apple Maps, focusing mostly on unnatural landscapes. “I want to capture those places and moments where human activity—for better or for worse—has shaped the landscape,” he explains. He begins with a concept, thinking about a particular human action, and then does research to find a location.
“Seeking out the geometric splendor of a solar power concentrator led me to Seville, Spain, and a lengthy search for salt evaporation ponds concluded in the San Francisco Bay,” he says. Since he started looking for images a few months ago—shared only with friends, at first—he says it’s changed the way he sees the world. “I’ll certainly never look at an airport map or shipping containers the same way again.”
One of biggest inspirations for the project was Overview, a short film from Planetary Collective that outlines the overview effect. The phenomena, Grant says, gives “the opportunity to appreciate our home in its entirety—to reflect on its beauty and its fragility.” While Grant’s images aren’t intended to replicate the jaw-dropping view from space that astronauts experience, he hopes to help others change their perspective in a similar way.
“That's the cognitive shift that I think is needed if we want to make progress in understanding who we are as a species, and what is needed to sustain a safe and healthy planet,” Grant says.
(Photos supplies by DigitalGlobe.)