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A Visual Guide to Global Trends

The Human Condition

Our Imprint Deepens as Consumption Accelerates

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Humans have altered the face of the Earth more than any other species, and the pace of change is increasing. We're not the only animals that shape their surroundings. Ants, beavers, and elephants, among other creatures, remake their environments to suit their purposes. But no species has been as thorough or as global about it as humans.

Our most obvious impact is on the land, where more than 80 percent of Earth's surface has been marked by human activity. Our terrestrial transformations go back at least to the beginnings of agriculture more than 10,000 years ago. Over the centuries, population growth and improved transportation have driven humans to control ever-widening tracts of land, with grave consequences for the species and habitats there.

We've left our mark on Earth's air and water as well. Exhaust and emissions from transportation and industry have fundamentally changed our atmosphere. And oceans, lakes, and rivers suffer from our pollution and overfishing.

Humans' impact on Earth is not always harmful though. Parks, farmlands, and wilderness areas allow human use while preserving natural habitats. But our role in shaping the Earth is powerful, and the human footprint continues to expand.

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