21st Century Landscapes

Robert Simmon
Planet Stories
Published in
3 min readDec 8, 2017


Anthropocene: noun | An·thro·po·cene | an(t)-thrə-pə-ˌsēn

The period of time during which human activities have had an environmental impact on the Earth regarded as constituting a distinct geological age. (Merriam Webster)

Over the course of the 20th Century, humans refashioned much of the surface of the Earth. Mass migration from the countryside to urban factories and storefronts created megacities like Jakarta, Shanghai, Nairobi, New York, and São Paulo. Coal and oil fields expanded to meet the growing need for energy. Forests were cut for lumber while mechanized agriculture spread across the plains of North America and the Asian steppes. Railroads, and then highways, linked these natural resources to consumers.

With the onset of the Information Age, the 21st Century promises to bring another change in the human impact on Earth’s environment. In this image series, Planet explores landscapes unique to this century—high-resolution satellite images of landscapes that have been completely transformed since January 1, 2000. Each of these 21 true-color images is exactly 2 kilometers (6,562 feet) across, and collected by a SkySat satellite with a resolution of 0.8 meters per pixel.

Noor III, Ouarzazate Solar Complex, Morocco. November 8, 2017.
Shrimp farms. Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras. November 22, 2017.
Central pivot irrigation. Southeastern Anatolia Project, Turkey. November 22, 2017
Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Germany. November 29, 2017.
Lithium mine. Salar de Olaroz, Argentina. November 24, 2017.
Panda Green Energy solar farm. Datong, China. July 9, 2017.
Central Production Facility. Khurais, Saudi Arabia. May 17, 2017.
Artificial Islands. Durrat al Bahrain, Bahrain. October 30, 2017.
Halley VI Research Station. Brunt Ice Shelf, Antarctica. November 28, 2017.
Prominent Hill Mine tailings storage facility. South Australia, Australia. November 25, 2017.
Naval vessels. Gwadar Port, Pakistan. December 14, 2016.
Restored coal mine. Campbell County, Wyoming, United States of America. September 21, 2017.
Aluminum stockpile. Phu My, Vietnam. October 10, 2017.
Gilgel Gibe III Dam. Omo River, Ethiopia. November 22, 2017.
Lighthouse. Subi Reef, Spratly Islands, South China Sea. November 11, 2017.
Well pad. Siberia, Russia. September 2, 2017.
Seawall & post-tsunami construction. Rikuzentakata, Japan. November 28, 2017.
Commercial center. Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. April 18, 2017.
Reclaimed salt pond. San Francisco Bay, California, United States of America. September 23, 2016.
MeerKAT radio telescope. Karoo, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. November 27, 2017.
Kutupalong makeshift settlement. Chittagong, Bangladesh. November 8, 2017.

In less than than 20 years, humans have altered landscapes on all seven continents. We’re exploiting new sources of energy and high-tech minerals, digging open-pit mines and restoring grasslands in their wake, revitalizing aging infrastructure and rebuilding after natural disasters, and building sprawling refugee camps in a matter of weeks.

Planet’s constellation observes these accelerating changes as they happen. Our satellites provide wide-area medium resolution global coverage daily, combined with pinpoint high-resolution data on demand.

All images courtesy of Planet, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Learn more and see additional changing landscapes at Planet.com.



Robert Simmon
Planet Stories

Data Visualization, Planet Labs. Ex-NASA. Blue Marble, Earth at Night, color.