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Google's new Earth Engine, powered by NASA's landsat satellites, gives a time lapse view of (pretty much) every land surface on earth over the last 25 years. The view is amazing, and inspiring, and at times terrifying.

It can be hard to understand the scale here, but our impacts on this planet are huge, and at this point it's clear that we're putting ourselves in a bit of a tight spot.
Good morning John! So, now that we've been regularly photographing the Earth from space for decades, we can watch in like, time-lapse format as our planet changes. Usually, as we change our planet. Huge-scale stuff, and Google has just released a tool that makes this easier. Basically, you can scan around the entire world and watch the last 25 years of life on Earth. What the world was like when I was 4 vs. what the world is like now. So, I wanted to share some of the cool things that I found while doing that. First, here's my hometown of Missoula, and if you look carefully, you can see some new neighborhoods being built and all the box stores going in at the edge of town. Bit of a small town, but it has changed in the last 25 years. More interesting, probably, is the amazing sprawl of Orlando, where, John, you and I grew up. But really the most fascinating bits are where humans have had their deepest influences. America's insatiable appetite for cheap coal to power our wonderful lifestyles has led to a practice called mountaintop removal mining in much of Appalachia. I've seen these pictures, I've seen close-ups and I've seen it from satellites, but as you scroll around and watch the last 20 years progress, it is astounding and terrifying and moving to see the amount of destruction. And, of course, I know that I benefit personally from this destruction, but it is destruction. Similarly, we all know that lots of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down, but you really can't understand the depth and the scale of it until you watch it happen. And are able to move all around Brazil and Bolivia and see how much of those forests are gone now. And then there's the story of water, which, of course, more people consume more of. Las Vegas and Dubai spreading across deserts. Saudi Arabia with massive irrigation projects making the deserts bloom. Inland seas drying up either because of drought or because of irrigation. But in addition to being terrifying, occasionally it can also be a story of recovery. Watching the forests take back the land that had been destroyed when Mount St. Helens erupted was particularly inspiring, though the nearby clear-cutting was not. We humans have a profound and largely negative effect on the rest of the life forms of the planet. Science has, for a long time, offered us these truths up on a platter in the form of data and numbers and statistics. But we are people. We are not computers and we are not particularly good at understanding what all of those data and statistics really mean. And it might be a better world if all policy was based on science, but it's not. It's based on the individual decisions and the individual feelings of individual people like me, and like you. For me, watching all of this change in a very limited span of my own life is intense and it's moving and it's terrifying. We have learned a lot, but we haven't really acted on that learning. And maybe that's because we don't really understand it. We know the numbers, but we can't see it. Or, we couldn't see it. Maybe taking a look around the Google Earth engine which, I should say, is based on the NASA Landsat program - which is FANTASTIC, good job NASA - it might give us all a better understanding of the realities that we face, and if we really understand those things better, then the decisions we make will be better. At least, one can hope. So yay for NASA, yay for Google, yay for science, yay for understanding, and hopefully also, in the near future, yay for action. John, I'll see you on Tuesday.