waterfowler

Humans and Terraforming

If there is one thing that can be said, humans are very good at changing their environment. Now regardless of your views on climate change or greenhouse gases, it cannot be denied that humans have left a big and very literally mark on our planet.

We’ve been doing it ever since our primeval ancestors figured out that fire can be used to clear forest, and that the grasslands created by such burning attracts grazing animals and gives us a clear line of sight for our throwing spears and nets. We have been doing it ever since the ancient humans figured out they could damn creeks to make ponds that lured in waterfowl. That if you repeatedly burned a clearing, the berry bushes would keep coming back ever year. That if you created stone walls along the low tide line, you could create sandy terraces that are perfect for clams. We managed our resources, only fishing at certain times, only hunting certain types of animals, or only cutting certain types of trees.

Then we invented agriculture and we wrought even more changes on the planet. We cleared forests to make room for our fields, pastures and cities. We terraced entire hillsides to allow us to grow crops. We drained swamps and cut the landscape with irrigation canals to provide our crops with water. Often we changed the very course of rivers and altered the soil we relied on, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Forests disappeared as our cities and emerging states needed timber for construction, ship-building, and fuel to make pottery, smelt metals, cook our food, and keep us warm.

But we didn’t just change the landscape, we also changed the plants we grew so that they suited our needs. We changed the animals we relied on. We turned wolves into dogs, auroch into cows, ibex into goats, jungle fowl into chickens, and wild boars into pigs. We called this process domestication, and soon quickly forgot that we had ever been without these domesticates.

We made artificial hills for our rituals, built mountains out of cut stone to mark the tombs of revered rulers, carved symbols into the landscape. Sliced into mountains to carve roads, mine metal ores, and quarry stone. We made monuments so astounding that people thousands of years later thought they must have been made by the gods, and buildings of the modern age that dwarf them.

We’ve also traveled. We’ve crossed all our oceans, bringing with us the animals and plants of our homelands, and returning home with the animals and plants of other lands. Some is intentional. New crops that offer new advantages. Animals from far away to awe visitors or remind us of home. Some is unintentional. Plant seeds lodged in the tread of our boots. Insect larva in the bilge of our ships. Rats that scurry and stay out of sight, and hitch a ride on our sailing ships and outrigger canoes. Some we regret bringing, intentionally or not, others have settled in and carved their own place in their new home.

And now we look to the stars and wonder if we could do the same to other planets. To bring our life and our world to the stars. To turn a red planet green and blue.

And what if we succeeded? What if a red planet turned green, and flushed with our success, we turned to other balls of rock orbiting distant stars.

And what if we encountered other life. Life that was like us, but also very different. What if they had never seen life like ours before, that spread to the stars turning red, grey, and brown planets blue and green.

What if some are fearful. What if they seen our domesticated animals, our sculpted landscapes, and our diverse nations and fear that we will assimilate and change them and their world like we did to our ancient animal enemies and our distant home planet.

But what is some our awed, and look at us and see a species that can not only adapt itself to new and challenges and environments, but that also changes the challenge and environment itself. Often changing and adapting to the changes they themselves wrought. For better and worse, humanity sailed the stars on the crest of a wave of change that they themselves have been creating since their distant ancestors set fire to the underbrush and realized they could use this.

What the Fuck Fethry?

Hey remember how we all thought it was weird how in Arthur he has a pet dog? Well I am reading the Donald Duck comics and, holy shit, there is some crazy meta-shit going on that is questioning my existentialism. Basically this issue is Donald’s stoner beatnik cousin Fethry wants to go duck hunting.

Not only that, but even the “real” ducks are sentient and can talk too.

“Tundra Swan Portrait”, 8"x10" Oil

Capturing the subtle colors and luminescence of white plumage has always been quite a challenge for me, and were a real struggle at times when I painted only in acrylics. I can say that art panels can soar quite well if thrown in a similar manner as a Frisbee (canvasses are somewhat less aerodynamic when throwing a fit). Regardless, working in oils has opened up new possibilities for me and I really enjoyed working on this piece. Though it is only really visible in person, I used careful stroke direction and painted mostly directly, and the brush strokes create the impression of physical feathers when seen at an angle. Experienced oil painters may not find this novel, but as someone that is fresh to the medium, it’s very exciting and new for me!

Here’s something you don’t see everyday. Three Canada geese flying through a rainbow at Morris Wetland Management District in Minnesota. Made up of 245 small parcels of wetlands and grasslands scattered throughout an eight-county area, the Morris District restores and protects enough wetland and grassland habitat to meet the needs of prairie wildlife and breeding waterfowl, as well as providing places for public recreation. Photo by Alex Galt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Images of Change

Our planet is constantly changing, and we use the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of Earth, improve lives and safeguard our future. 

These images show change over time, with periods ranging from centuries to years. Some of these effects are related to climate change, some are not. Some document the effects of urbanization or the ravage of natural hazards such as fires and floods. All show our planet in a state of flux. Take a look…

Urban Expansion in New Delhi, India

Between the times these two images were taken, the population of India’s capital and its suburbs (known collectively as “Delhi”) ballooned from 9.4 million to 25 million. It is now second in population only to Tokyo, which has 38 million people.

Great Salt Lake Shrinkage, Utah

Dramatic change in the area of the Great Salt Lake over the past 25 years. The lake was filled to near capacity in 1985 because feeder streams were charged with snowmelt and heavy rainfall. In contrast, the 2010 image shows the lake shriveled by drought. The Promontory Peninsula (protruding into the lake from the top) is surrounded by water on three sides in the first image, but is landlocked on its eastern side in the second.

Exceptional Early Ice Melt, Greenland

Meltwater streams, rivers and lakes form in the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet every spring or early summer, but melting began exceptionally early in 2016. Melting encourages further melting when pods of meltwater develop, since they darken the surface and absorb more sunlight than ice does. Surface melt contributes to sea-level rise when the water runs off into the ocean.

Iran’s Lake Urmia Changes Color

Some combination of algae and bacteria is periodically turning Iran’s Lake Urmia from green to red. The change typically occurs when summer heat and dryness evaporate water, increasing the lake’s saltiness. Data from satellites indicate that the lake has lost about 70% of its surface area over the last 14 years.

Owens Lake Degradation, California

Owens Lake lies in the Owens Valley between the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Mountains, about 130 miles north of Los Angeles, California. For thousands of years, it was one of the most important stopover sites in the western U.S. for migrating waterfowl and shore birds. However, in the early 20th century, the lower Owens River, which fed the lake, was largely diverted to the Los Angeles aqueduct. Water from springs and artesian wells kept some of the lake alive, but toxic chemicals and dust impinged on the regional environment and disturbed the bird habitat.

Baban Rafi Deforestation, Niger

Baban Rafi Forest is the most significant area of woodland in the Maradi Department of Niger, a west African country on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. These pictures show the loss of a significant fraction of the natural landscape (darker green areas) of the forest to agriculture. Population in this region quadrupled during the 40 years leading up to the 2007 image.

Colorado River Evolution, Mexico 

These two pictures illustrate the extremes of water flow in the Colorado River since measurements began in the late 1800s. The 1985 image was taken in the midst of record high flow, while the 2007 image shows the driest period. Excessive rains or severe droughts directly change the amount of water available in the Colorado River Basin, and so does the increasing pressure of human needs throughout the western states.

Helheim Glacier Melt, Greenland

Along the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet, outlet glaciers flow as icy rivers through fjords and out to sea. These pictures show a fjord in which Helheim Glacier (on the left) is crumbling into large and small icebergs (light blue, on the right). The glacier outlet held steady from the 1970s until about 2001, then began to retreat toward its source about 4/7 miles between 2001 and 2005. The glacier’s flow to the sea has also sped up.

Drying Lake Poopó, Bolivia

Lake Poopó, Bolivia’s second-largest lake and an important fishing resource for local communities, has dried up once again because of a drought and diversion of water sources for mining and agriculture. The last time it dried was in 1994, after which it took several years for water to return and even longer for ecosystems to recover.

Flooding on the Ganges River, India

Heavy monsoon rains have caused catastrophic flooding along the Ganges and other rivers in eastern and central India. At least 300 people died and more than six million were affected by the flooding, according to news reports. These images show a stretch of the Ganges near Patna.

All of this knowledge about our home planet enables policy makers, government agencies and other stakeholders to make informed decisions on critical issues that occur all around the world. From rising sea levels to the changing availability of freshwater, we enable studies that unravel the complexities of our planet from the highest reaches of Earth’s atmosphere to its core.

To see the full ‘Images of Change’ gallery, visit: http://climate.nasa.gov/images-of-change

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