Human civilization as we know it has only been around for 6,000 years, and we only become more harmful to the Earth the longer that we’re here because of the progress that we make. Things drastically took a turn for the worst at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, with the growth of mechanized industry, and continued down this destructive path after the Second World War, when there was a population boom. Life after these eras changed not only the course of civilization, but also the landscape of the Earth dramatically forever.
10. Tokyo, Japan
If you are claustrophobic, Tokyo, Japan, may not be the city for you. The world’s most populous city is home to 37.8 million people in an area of 5,200 square miles. In terms of being built up, it is second only to New York City. What is also impressive is that much of the city was built up after World War II. Before that, many of the buildings were wood framed until the Americans firebombed the city on March 9, 1945. It destroyed 16 square miles and killed between 80,000 and 130,000 people. Besides the reconstruction, at the end of World War II there were 9.3 million people living in Tokyo, meaning that the city has expanded to accommodate an additional 28.5 million people in 70 years.
9. Rio Huaypetue Mine, Manú Province, Peru
Have you ever wondered why we value gold so much? Well, essentially it comes down to the fact that it is an element that is rare (but not scarce) and it also has a relatively low melting point (making it easier to shape and form). Also, it looks pretty. For all these reasons, gold has been used since 550 B.C. as currency, and it is still a valuable commodity today.
Because of people’s love for gold, some areas of the world have been mined and torn apart looking for it. One notable place where this happened, mostly illegally, is the Rio Huaypetue Mine in Manú Province, Peru. At its peak, two percent of the world’s gold came from there.
The mining led to widespread deforestation in an area that was once a rainforest, making the landscapes look like rivers of diarrhea. Even worse than destroying the ascetics of the area, mercury is now poisoning the soil and water in the area.
8. Manhattan, New York City, New York
Manhattan is one of the most densely populated places on Earth with 71,672 residents per square mile. However, that is not nearly as bad as it used to be. In 1910, 2.3 million people lived in the 23 square mile borough, compared to the 1.63 million people who lived there in 2014.
Manhattan is also known for using up nearly every square inch of land and as a result, they have the second lowest parks per capita in America. But they do have one of the most famous parks in the world, Central Park in Upper Manhattan, which is pictured above. The 1.2 square mile green space amongst the concrete jungle shows how much land people have taken over since 1624 when the Dutch West India Company sent 30 families to live and work on what is now Governor’s Island.
7. Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In South America, the slum with the highest density of people is Rocinha, Brazil, which is located in Rio de Janeiro‘s South Zone. In Rocinha, there are 250,000 people crammed into just 0.88 square miles, which is smaller than Central Park. Besides just being an incredibly densely populated slum, it also overlooks some of Rio de Janeiro’s most expensive and prestigious buildings, creating an interesting juxtaposition of life in a country with a tremendous wealth gap.
6. Athabasca Oil Sands, Alberta, Canada
As of 2014, Canada is the fifth largest producer of oil in the world. A majority of the country’s 4,800 barrels per day comes from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, which are the third largest oil reserves in the world (only Saudi Arabia and Venezuela have bigger reserves).
The tar sands are a mixture of water, clay and bitumen. Bitumen is a semi-solid crude oil substance and much of it is buried underground. The biggest problem with the oil sands is the amount of refinement it goes through. Refinement causes emissions, so the more refinement that a crude oil needs, the more emissions it creates. The crude oil found in the tar sands needs the most refinement in the world, making it the most un-environmentally friendly way to make oil.
5. Coronado Feeders, Dalhart, Texas
This picture was taken from Google Earth, and it is an aerial view of a commercial feedlot in Dalhart, Texas. While the red water looks a lot like blood, it is actually a lagoon full of manure. These pools, called anaerobic lagoons, are common practice for manure storage throughout the United States for pig farms, but the problem is that they are often overflowing or leaking and that poses a big environmental risk for the surrounding areas. If it leaks, it could poison the soil, and it puts poisonous gases into the air. Currently studies are being conducted to find better solutions of what to do with the manure.
4. Colorado Springs, Colorado
While it may be hard to see, all those black objects in the pits are used car and truck tires. In Colorado Springs and Hudson, both of which are close to Denver, are home to the biggest stockpile of tires in America. Out of 100 million scrap tires, they house 60 million of them. Of course, these types of landfills are incredibly dangerous because if there was a fire, it would rival the one in Springfield. Besides the possibility of a fire, the tires are also a haven for rattlesnakes, rats, and mosquitoes.
The landfills are closing in 2018 and the government is looking to recycle the tires as a source of income for the state.
3. The Betsiboka Estuary, Madagascar
From space, astronauts say that the Betsiboka Estuary makes it look like Madagascar is bleeding out into the Indian Ocean. The estuary is at the mouth of the biggest river in Madagascar and it looks red because of soil erosion. The soil is eroding because of mass deforestation due to a century of extensive logging that cleared much of the rainforests in the area. The erosion was made worse by tropical storms that hit the area in recent years.
Erosion is dangerous to the environment because not only does the soil disappear, but it also adds sediment into the water that blocks waterways and it affects marine life.
2. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is the 10th most populated city in the world with 22.2 million people in the metropolitan area. It also has a population density of 8,400 people per square kilometer , and a small segment of the population is depicted in the picture above. The aerial view is of the suburbs of the city that has historically struggled with infrastructure problems. Houses were simply built following the contours of the Earth instead of having an urban plan and this has led to massive urban sprawl in the city.
1. Santosh Park and Uttam Nagar, Delhi, India
With a whopping 22 million people in its metropolitan area, Delhi, India is the second largest city in the world. It is also the 13th most densely populated city on Earth. Two of its neighborhoods with the densest population are Santosh Park and Uttam Nagar, which are on the west side of the city. If you think that this image is somehow fake or manipulated in some way, check it out on Google Maps for yourself.