Watch Humans Destroy the Earth in 30 Years With Google Earth Time Lapse

Image: Google

Humans do not treat the Earth kindly, and now we have even more evidence. Google just updated the Google Earth Engine to include four years of additional imagery, petabytes of new data, and generally a much clearer view of any location on Earth from 1984 to 2016. The best part: You can watch any area on Earth in a time lapse video.


The update lets you see, in dramatic detail, how the Earth has changed over the course of 32 years in almost any location. Google originally launched the time lapse tool in 2013, but back then, it was populated with low-grade images that could give you a general sense of how places looked but wouldn’t show intimate details like roads and buildings. Now you can practically see every little detail of any location (depending on how far zoomed in you are).

Part of the secret to the incredible detail in more recent years is Google’s use of higher quality imagery from NASA. Google Earth is now using images from Landsat 8, a satellite launched into orbit in 2013, that takes photos in greater detail, more vibrant colors, and twice as many images as older satellites. The search giant began using the satellite for Google Maps back in June, but it’s now officially added those images to Google Earth.


The new time lapse feature lets you track cool things like the development of major cities, but it also lets you track the destruction that humans have left behind in all the places they’ve inhabited. Watch glaciers melt, land erode, and cities turn into one giant parking lot. You can pick any spot in the world you want at Google Earth’s Time Lapse website, or if you’re really lazy, you can just watch Google’s 40-hour YouTube playlist of time lapse videos.


Technology editor at Gizmodo.

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E Al Fathoom

Ok. This is getting really obnoxious. I don’t know if it’s a Millenial thing or the times we live in, but this demonizing and pearl clutching over what humanity has done while at the same time being self-righteous and smug sounding as hell has got to stop.

So much of my social network lately has been post after post of people saying how awful we are and how terrible we are to the Earth and how people who aren’t thinking like they are ruining the planet. Yet it never occurs to them that everything they take for granted: the Internet, modern building codes, cars, smart phones, the clothes on their back, the things they use everyday come from all of that work that came before.

It’s like they think these modern amenities just sprouted overnight. They spout off about the evils of capitalism, oil companies, etc and never stop to think that “Hey, all this stuff that I use on a daily basis, came from that; maybe I’m part of the problem too”. Like talking to people about oil; it’s bad! Until I point out even electric cars use petroleum products.

I think we need to change the way we live, but we have to do it with respect to our past. This years election is a great example of what happens when take the past for granted. All of those middle Americans workers got left in the lurch. They felt abandoned, but instead of going quietly, they bit back.

Moving into the future isn’t a binary switch. Humanity is a complex organism that changes slowly. Instead of demonizing our past, we need to respect it for what it was, learn from it and plot our way forward.