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See Earth Transform Like You're a Time-Traveling Astronaut

THOSE LUCKY ENOUGH to have spent time aboard the International Space Station report a singular feeling while watching the Earth rush by below: It’s called the overview effect. It’s a kind of awe and newfound appreciation for the interconnectedness of planetary systems and the human species. But if you’re like me and have never been aboard the ISS, you can at least enjoy a bevy of images from satellites circling the Earth, our own kind of terrestrial overview effect.

Still, not even astronauts can really watch the planet transform over time, given the brevity of their stints aboard the space station. Cities balloon or depopulate over the course of decades. Mining outfits boom and bust. Loggers deforest a landscape, and farmers bloom vast fields of tulips. Satellites have been capturing all the ways we’ve been transforming this planet, images that authors Benjamin Grant and Timothy Dougherty have compiled into the fascinating new book Overview Timelapse: How We Change the Earth. (Disclosure: Their publisher, Ten Speed Press, belongs to the Crown Publishing Group, a subsidiary of Penguin Random House, through which this author has published his own books.)

Their book of photos takes the wonder of the overview effect and stretches it over many years of change, be it the rise and fall of industries or the retreat of Antarctic sea ice. “That awe and that mesmerizing vastness that you can see in the images is still there. But this is an experiment,” says Grant. “When you look at the same place multiple times from this awe-inspiring perspective, what can we learn?”

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