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FarmED Books: The Human Planet by George Steinmetz & Andre Revkin

The Human Planet: Earth & the Dawn of the Anthropocene, by George Steinmetz & Andre Revkin is reviewed by FarmED Co-founder, Celene Wilkinson .

If you enjoy aerial photographs of our planet, this beautiful coffee table book will appeal to you. A stunning piece of work by daring photographer George Steinmetz with renowned science writer Andrew Revkin supplying the captions. George has circled the globe attached to a backpack motor and parachute-like wing, and later using a remote controlled drone to capture these amazing photos giving us a perspective of parts our world many of us would never see. Andrew has worked for the New York Times for 21 years during his over 30 year career as a science writer winning most of the top awards in his field.

As stated in the book ‘it is a primary document of the dawn of the Anthropocene, the new era in the geological history of the planet when, by growing scientific consensus, humanity’s actions rather than natural forces, are shaping its future’.

The book is split into 3 parts, Our Dynamic Earth, Harvesting the Biosphere and The Human Footprint. George’s thought provoking photographs provide a snapshot of the state of the planet today. Andrew’s captions are informative and leave much food for thought. He questions ‘Can there be a good Anthropocene? You’ll know in 50 years, and we’ll all have a role in the outcome, either through action or lack of it’.

Photo 1. Washington State - rural roads lined by thin screens of uncut trees to hide the scars where industrial forestry has clear-cut the landscape.

Photo 2. A grooved mosaic of plastic-roofed greenhouses sprawls across 74,000 acres of coastal plains in southern Spain.

Photo 3. A Wisconsin mega-dairy’s calf farm, 3,300 shelters line the landscape sheltering calves from birth to 6 months old.

Photo 4. A mountain hollowed out for its gold and copper. The Grasberg mine is the world’s largest mine, and the largest producer of gold and second largest of copper.

Photo 5. Twin ruby-red drops of colour blaze against the surrounding earth tones of Ocean Spray’s Bennett family cranberry farm.

Photo 6. The ancient remains of the streets and buildings of Thamugadi (modern Timgad) blanket the Algerian landscape with an elegantly geometric precision.

Photo 7. Rows of identical houses are being built in the Amazon by the Brazilian government due to impacts of the soy boom.

Photo 8. Urban centres from Sydney to Singapore to, here, Milan, are sprouting green-fringed skyscrapers that amount to what architects call ‘vertical forests’ - with hundreds of trees and thousands of plants on roofs, patios and balconies filtering air pollution for residents and absorbing some climate warming carbon dioxide.

The Jacket front (top) shows vacation homes which dot islets that remain after centuries of peat harvesting in the Netherlands and on the back (below): George Steinmetz flies over Shibam, Yemen, in a photograph taken with a camera attached to his paraglider wing.

This is a book to dip in and out of for anyone with an interest in the health of the planet and a visual masterpiece.

The Human Planet: Earth and the Dawn of the Anthropocene by George Steinmetz and Andrew Revkin, published by Abrams Books, 2020.


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