Benjamin Grant's Overview: A New Perspective of Earthstitches together satellite images to show our planet as we've never seen it before.
It all started with a happy accident: When he was prepping for a meeting in 2013, messing around with a mapping program, Benjamin Grant typed in “Earth” to see if the program would zoom out. But instead, it zoomed in, to Earth, Texas. Grant was mesmerized by the image of farmland and fields, neat squares with circles in the center. Not long after, he created the blog Daily Overview, stitching together photos from satellite company DigitalGlobe’s image library to create stunning pictures of the Earth from above.
Now, three years after he looked at crop circles around Earth, Texas, Grant is releasing Overview: A New Perspective on Earth, which contains more than 220 jaw-dropping photos. “When I first started the project, I decided that all of the images would focus on places of human impact,” Grant tells mental_floss via email. “Accordingly, the first eight chapters of the book are organized by the major themes that arose over the course the daily installments of the project, categorizing the most visible manifestations of our activity that can be seen from a cosmic perspective ('Where We Harvest', 'Where We Extract', 'Where We Power', etc.). The final chapter, however, serves as a contrast to the preceding images and instead focuses on places where our impact is less obvious (‘Where We Are Not’).”
To find the places he featured in the book, Grant started with a thought experiment, first considering the themes that make up the first eight chapters and then looking for new places to capture within those themes. “For example, if I wanted to show an Overview related to energy, I could begin with a search for a list of solar panel facilities,” he says. “Then I could inspect those locations through the satellite imagery, keeping in mind that I would only include a location in the book if it had a very strong visual appeal or a particularly fascinating story to tell.”
Both Daily Overview and the Overview book take their names from the “Overview Effect,” the feelings astronauts experience when they see our planet from space for the first time: Awe, and a sudden clarity about the fragility of our planet. Grant hopes his book will give earthbound humans similar feelings.
“Ultimately, I believe these images can be used as a means to get people thinking about our built environment, about how we are impacting the planet, and if I am successful in my composition, people will at least start looking,” he says. “Then the concise explanation that accompanies each Overview will hopefully inspire a fresh curiosity about our planet and also raise awareness about the current state of our one and only home.” Here are eight of mental_floss’s favorite images from Overview, accompanied by their captions.
1. DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE AIRCRAFT BONEYARD // 32·151087°, –110·826079°
"The largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world is located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona, USA. The boneyard—run by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group—contains more than 4400 retired American military and government aircrafts."
2. GEMASOLAR THERMOSOLAR PLANT // 37·560755°, –5·331908°
"This Overview captures the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Seville, Spain. The solar concentrator contains 2,650 heliostat mirrors that focus the sun’s thermal energy to heat molten salt flowing through a 140-metre-tall (460-foot) central tower. The molten salt then circulates from the tower to a storage tank, where it is used to produce steam and generate electricity. In total, the facility displaces approximately 30,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year."
3. TULIPS // 52·276355°, 4·557080°
"Every year, tulip fields in Lisse, Netherlands begin to bloom in March and are in peak bloom by late April. The Dutch produce a total of 4.3 billion tulip bulbs each year, of which 53 percent (2.3 billion) is grown into cut flowers. Of these, 1.3 billion are sold in the Netherlands as cut flowers and the remainder is exported: 630 million bulbs to Europe and 370 million elsewhere."
4. MOAB POTASH EVAPORATION PONDS // 38·485579°, –109·684611°
"Evaporation ponds are visible at the potash mine in Moab, Utah, USA. The mine produces muriate of potash, a potassium-containing salt that is a major component in fertilizers. The salt is pumped to the surface from underground brines and dried in massive solar ponds that vibrantly extend across the landscape. As the water evaporates over the course of 300 days, the salts crystallize out. The colors that are seen here occur because the water is dyed a deep blue, as darker water absorbs more sunlight and heat, thereby reducing the amount of time it takes for the water to evaporate and the potash to crystallize."
5. DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA // 26·475547°, –80·156470°
"Because many cities in the American state of Florida contain master-planned communities, often built on top of waterways in the latter half of the 20th century, there are a number of intricate designs that are visible from the Overview perspective. One particular neighborhood in Delray Beach is seen here."
6. PORT OF SINGAPORE // 1·237656°, 103·806422°
"Cargo ships and tankers—some weighing up to 300,000 tonnes—wait outside the entry to the Port of Singapore. The facility is the world’s second-busiest port in terms of total tonnage, shipping a fifth of the world’s cargo containers and half of the world’s annual supply of crude oil."
7. ANGKOR WAT // 13·412505°, 103·864472°
"Angkor Wat, a temple complex in Cambodia, is the largest religious monument in the world (first it was Hindu, then Buddhist). Constructed in the 12th century, the 820,000 square metre (8.8 million-square-foot) site features a moat and forest that harmoniously surround a massive temple at its centre."
8. NISHINOSHIMA VOLCANIC ACTIVITY // 27.243362, 140.874420
"Nishinoshima is a volcanic island located 940 kilometres (584 miles) south of Tokyo, Japan. Starting in November 2013, the volcano began to erupt and continued to do so until August 2015. Over the course of the eruption, the area of the island grew in size from 0.06 square kilometres (0.02 square miles) to 2.3 square kilometres (0.89 square miles)."
Pick up your copy of Overview: A New Perspective of Earth here.