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The photographer sizing up the planet’s human footprint

By Leslie Hook
Financial Times


The word “ Anthropocene” first entered popular use about 20 years ago as scientists looked for a way to describe a new geologic era, one defined by the impact of humans. Earlier eras have been linked to climatic shifts caused by asteroids or ice ages, but now it is human activity that is reshaping the Earth.

That is the theme that Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has taken for a new project that spans the globe, chronicling natural and unnatural worlds. His focus is on the indelible human fingerprint on the planet — whether in tunnels, dams, mines, forests or megacities.

“These landscapes are human landscapes,” he explains. “We need to own these landscapes, they are ours — they are not some bad corporation’s landscapes — they are our landscapes. There is an urgency for all of us to own the problem.”

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