Simulated satellite image of earth without human influence

It is clear from satellite images or a view from a plane that humans have transformed the surface of the planet, but it’s difficult to grasp how much without a baseline reference. Grasslands, wetlands, and forests look about the same when they become agricultural or residential land. We have a pretty good understanding of the landscape before our influence. Is there anything that presents this as a simulated satellite view?

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humans make bigger changes to the earth than just repurposing land for human use. not sure how you would do the kind of simulation that you’re suggesting, since humans have been around for a while now.

there are old aerial and satellite images that are available online if you just want to see how things looked n years ago.


The satellite images from years ago only represent a small fraction. They don’t show the vast old-growth forests that were there long before humans, cleared a few short centuries ago and have been corn fields for the last fifty years.

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I agree it would be really interesting to see this. I often look at a North American landscape and try to imagine what it would have looked like per-colonization, or if there had never been humans. I think the point that @pisum is making is that we don’t know what the Earth would look like in the absence of humans, and therefore can’t present that in any scientifically rigorous way. What would global climate be (a glacial period, maybe?), where would the giant beaver ponds be, how often would things burn, where would giant herds of herbivores be altering the landscape, what satellite-visible signs would a few billion passenger pigeons leave, and where? It would be an amazing art project to think about all these things and make some creative guesses, then create a no-humans satellite view.


Old Replogle world globes are the closest thing I can think of; they were colored according to biomes, not geopolitics. There were still dots for cities, but no urban sprawl.

Lying with maps – those globes were one of the factors in my disappointment as a traveler, discovering that no destination was as wild as I had pictured it.

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