Earth Day was on Sunday – not sure how you or your community observed it, but it seemed to be fairly low key from my perspective in NYC and Washington, D.C. In New York City and there was food art off the High Line and giant puppet impersonators in Bryant Park, their outfits made of Styrofoam food containers; in Washington, D.C. it was a rather desultory Earth Day with rain and a small group of people huddled on the Mall, although Rev. Jesse L. Jackson was there in solidarity.
NASA has redesigned and enhanced their Global Climate Change website, providing aerial photos of deforestation and clearing in Brazil. You can find them in a photo gallery called “State of Flux.” As the article describes, there are examples of deforestation in Bolivia, urban growth in Saudi Arabia, and the creeping sprawl of Las Vegas. (Earth Day 2012: A new look at the human footprint on Mother Earth, by Rene Lynch). The new website provides remarkable images and “information-rich captions” to interpret the changes in land use. While the article mistakenly ascribes the changes to population growth (it is only an intervening variable, not the causative factor), it is a valuable reminder of the important role that anthropologists have played from the beginning in understanding the human dimensions of climate change; and the importance of re-orienting the focus in climate modeling from “land cover” to “land use change.” This was one of the early lessons from social sciences, and specifically from people like Emilio Moran, an anthropologist of course, and Diana Liverman, who is a cultural geographer. The revised website from NASA may be one of the best efforts from federal agencies in the spirit of Earth Day 2012.