drinking ourselves dry

americas at nightOkay. Time to take stock. How many earth’s are you worth?

I came in at 2-point-something. Damn take-out meals and dirty daily commuting.

The aerial evidence of our place on the planet is not always obvious outside Google maps, but once our side of the sphere turns her back on the Light our dominance is painfully obvious from space.

Just one reason I love NASA’s Earth Observatory, shit like this.

To an observer in space, humanity’s footprints on the surface of the Earth are large and varied. They include the regular patterns of irrigated cropland, straight lines of roads and railways running across continents, reservoirs on river systems, and the cement rectangles of ports and seawalls along coastlines. But what about humanity’s signature footprint —cities? By day, cities viewed from space can blend into the countryside, or appear as gray smudges, depending on the style of development and size of the urban area …

Recently, Don Pettit assembled a sequence of several of the most striking images of city lights at night into an animated “world tour” [high-resolution (126 MB MPEG), web-resolution (39 MB QuickTime)] of cities at night (script). This video, produced entirely by Pettit, takes you on a quick trip comparing cities from different regions, all viewed from the International Space Station.

From a geographic perspective, cities at night tell different stories about a region. City lights provide sharp boundaries that delineate the densest concentrations of people, a characteristic that has been used to assess the effect of urbanization on Earth’s ecosystems. The increased detail of city lights available from astronaut photography can help refine urban boundaries defined from satellite data. Transportation corridors and major commercial development, such as ports, shopping centers, and cultural icons—like the Las Vegas strip—jump out of the landscape.

dos passos from space

So, back down at ground level, at the eating and pooping level we live at, this sort of technology has aided the creation of ozone and greenhouse gas models I wrote about last week.

In the same way that viewing our planet from without for the first time stirred the environmental movement to press their cause for planetary sustainability in the ’70s, this new modeling is a challenge to each of us to consider how deeply we gouge our Mother and host for our daily bread.

That’s El Paso/Juarez at left, btw.

American Public Media created a great tool for assessing your demand on Earth’s resources.

play now

Peak Oil may dominate the headlines today with gas pump anxiety and woe, but Peak Water is careening at us fast. While a beer-drenched lush no more, I must admit I have consumed my share of cervezas. I had never considered the water it took to make the sudsy, however, until I was crossing into Piedras Negras and my host in this water-starved land bragged up the new Modelo plant as a model of conservation, saying they was getting the best industry returns, eating up about three or four bottles of water for every bottle of beer they produced.

Get acquainted with the water cost of your diet at Water Footprint.

San Antonio’s Water System has made great strides in conservation and reducing our average usage. The rumble in the Hill Country that is rooftop rain catchment isn’t long for urban areas like SA. We’d be well-advised to start making these switches before San Antonio’s water scouting stirs a rural resistance that comes calling for our urbanite heads.

Thankfully, the last time I checked the American mega-churches’ Gospel of Wealth was losing place to planetary concerns under a barrage of Planet Care sermons. Now the Pope has backed up that message, adding polluting the Earth to the ever lengthening list of potential sins we can engage in.

Then there are curious ads like this one:

Next up: Carbon footprints as Catechism and a new, thoroughly revised and cataloged take on Gluttony.

Bring it on. We all know Catholics don’t carry enough collective guilt around nohow.

Images above are courtesy of NASA.

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