Earth Day: Taking the time to retrace our global footprint | Local News
On this Earth Day, take a look at Earth.
When the April 22 commemorative date was pushed back to 1970, the famous “Earthrise” photo of NASA astronaut William Anders from our planet floating in front of his Apollo 8 spacecraft was our most popular self-examination.
Today, a lace of satellites can show us not only any place on the globe, but animate it through time to show what has changed.
“You can see the human footprint on the landscape,” said Kevin McManigal, a mapping expert at the University of Montana, of the US Geological Survey and the new Google Earth timelapse tool. “You can see how cities develop very quickly over a decade or two. You can see the top of the mountain being removed for coal mining. You can see the Columbia Glacier retreating into Alaska. On Helena, you can see the kill scarab that has moved through the forest. It’s amazing how quickly things change. “
USGS spokesman Mark Newell said the online tool combines more than 20 million satellite photos from the past 37 years, creating an explorable historical view of the landscapes, coastlines and surface waters of the planet. The software is free and does not need to be downloaded, although a newer computer with a good screen improves the experience.
Closer to home, Missoulians may see one of the rare occasions when a landscape has regained a pre-industrial appearance. What was once Milltown Reservoir at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers is now Milltown State Park, with reconstructed river channels and replanted vegetation.
With the Timelapse tool, the satellite view from 1985 to 2020 shows much more than the Superfund restoration project. Attentive viewers may notice the appearance of a golf course on Bandmann Flats just downstream, the thousand-acre scorch mark from the West Riverside fire in 2011, and the construction of several huge industrial sheds in the old yard. Bonner woodworker.
Similar simulated flights over time tell other stories. Pick a plot in the back of Bitterroot between Lolo and Hamilton and watch the subdivisions germinate. Zoom out a little bit and wildfires of 2000 and beyond leave their mark on the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountains.
Slide the frame north to Whitefish, and the explosive growth of Whitefish Mountain and its associated vacation homes showcases the view. Look closely at the changing shades of green to achieve the timber cut on the old lands of Plum Creek Timber Co. just to the northwest. Head the frame further north to see even faster logging in the mountainsides of British Columbia.
‘A walk through time’
A very different kind of time travel takes place around the Oval on the University of Montana campus.
Five billion years of terrestrial geo-history unfolds on 90 signs installed around the brick walkway, giving passers-by an impression of planetary reach. Each poster on the southern half of the Ring represents a passage of one hundred million years, while the faster developments of post-microbial life forms are recorded in 10 million year increments.
“Physicist Sidney Liebes thought if people understood how long it took to turn dead rock into earth, we would deal with it,” said Vicki Watson, professor emeritus of environmental studies at UM. “Much of it is just primordial soup, then a small part of dinosaurs. It was a brief period compared to the time of the evolution of the earth.
Liebes’ “A Walk Through Time” facility will remain in place during Earth Day and the following weekend, weather permitting. Watson said last Sunday’s abrupt windstorm flattened many screens and shattered a few.
Fortunately, they were designed for outdoor display.
A counterclockwise walk from the Grizzly Bear statue advances in time. Watson noted that the descriptions are intended to be both educational and entertaining. Blue-green algae appear near Davidson Honors College, with the observation that they could feed on a wide variety of resources, but produced oxygen as waste that ultimately poisoned the atmosphere they depended on . The Invention of Sex is recorded by Main Hall (and it’s not what you’d expect).
While all this mass of time and history may seem overwhelming, the speed of change matters even more. In his international mapping work, McManigal said a project to record the impact of oil palm plantations in Malaysia could not track month-to-month deforestation changes there.
“About 15 percent of the land landscape is under some kind of protection,” McManigal said. “But most of them are ‘paper parks’ with a designation and a polygon on the map, but without an application. Managing these areas involves many challenges. “
And despite global commitments to preserve places with intact biodiversity and ecosystems, a recent global study published in the journal Frontiers in Forests and Global Change found that 97% of the planet’s land surface may no longer be ecologically intact.
“We know that intact habitat is increasingly lost and that the values of intact habitat have been demonstrated for both biodiversity and people,” said lead author of the study, Andrew. Plumptre, Key Biodiversity Areas Secretariat at Cambridge University. “But this study found that much of what we think of as intact habitat is made up of missing species that have been hunted by humans, or lost to invasive species or disease.”
Back in Missoula, the last poster of the “Walk Through Time” screen shows this “Earthrise” image taken beyond the moon. It was also a time in history when the United States government adopted a remarkable series of measures to protect the environment, including the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency under the leadership of President Richard Nixon. .
“We’ve made a lot of changes to the earth that we think have hurt us more than helping us,” Watson said. “Back then, we did it because we thought it was better for the human race. But the losses were greater than the gains. We owe it to Earth to restore health to these systems that we once damaged. It is not easy. “