We live in times where the impact of human activities on the planet has never been greater. And we've seen plenty of data-based, visual representations to the fact, but this series of luminescent maps showing anthropogenic impacts are some of the most stunning we've encountered. Created by Globaïa, an organization dedicated to global environmental education, the project is dubbed "A Cartography of the Anthropocene," with some maps highlighting transportation or communcation networks and pulled together in an animation:
Like laying a web of informational filaments on the globe, the maps use data culled from a number of government agencies, and were created by anthropologist Felix Pharand-Deschenes. For the last few years, there's a ongoing debate whether the current geological age should be renamed the "Anthropocene" (the Greek anthropo- meaning "human" and -cene meaning "new") to reflect the unprecedented scope of planetary change brought on by human acts, and these illuminated maps may make a good case, as Globaïa explains:
We are officially still in the Holocene. In fact, we are in the Phanerozoic Eon, Cenozoic era, Quaternary period and Holocene epoch. But now, the Earth's system does not seem to behave the same way as, say, at the time of Hesiod, Dante or Cervantes. The Earth of the 21st century is warming, overcrowded, partly deforested, and more toxic and interconnected than ever. The comforting envelope of the Holocene, which has fostered the birth of civilizations, is now punctured.
Perhaps this strikes you as hubris, but according to Globaïa, perhaps it reflects a a bigger picture of what we face as a species and as citizens of the world:
Behind the name lie the challenges of our time. This concept illustrates and groups together the main agents that shape our planet, who literally engrave its surface—it is the anthroposphere, the human layer that grows inside the biosphere. This page is dedicated to the impressionist mapping of the artifacts from this singular moment in Earth's history. Impressionist because these maps are unlabelled and silent, giving free rein to contemplation and imagination; impressionist also because they do not follow the canons of cartography, where scales and legend are mandatory.
By locating the structures and hotspots of human activity, by acknowledging the extent of our footprints and our facilities, perhaps we will glimpse the limits of our world and the importance of redefining what it means to live in and on it.
More beautiful maps from Globaïa.