Humanity from Space: Introduction (02:06)
Using images from space, this film examines how ingenuity and innovation will meet the challenges of population growth.
Planetary Perspective (02:45)
Satellite technology reveals the complexity of our modern and increasingly interdependent society. Studying the ingenuity that created networks reveals how the modern world developed.
Agricultural Revolution (03:10)
Approximately 12,000 years ago, less than five million humans inhabited Earth. Independently, hunter gatherer tribes around the world began planting seeds—setting the stage for modern civilization.
Early Societies (03:16)
Farming provided food surpluses that allowed humans to settle in one place. Cooperation encouraged ingenuity and allowed skill specialization, leading to larger cities like Jericho, Erbil, and Byblos in the Fertile Crescent; few ancient cities exceeded one million residents.
Urban Explosion (01:47)
Many metropolises have over 20 million residents. Modern society could not exist without cities; their growth began 250 years ago.
Industrial and Transportation Revolutions (03:26)
In Great Britain in 1765, James Watt improved the steam engine—ushering in a new wave of innovation. Steam engines and railways brought workers, food, and coal to cities, accelerating urban growth.
Urban Age (03:38)
View a simulation of Manchester's rapid population growth. During the Industrial Revolution, cities around the world surpassed one million. Since 2006, more people have lived in cities than in rural areas.
Black Marble Images (03:09)
In 2011, NASA launched the Suomi Satellite to study weather. It revealed our global interconnectivity and electricity networks. View light patterns along the Nile, from fishing boats, and on the Korean Peninsula.
Electricity Revolution (02:13)
In 1879, Thomas Edison improved on the electric light bulb by making a bamboo and carbon filament. It burned brighter and lasted over 1,000 hours. He also perfected the electrical grid.
Electrical Grid (03:29)
Edison built the first network of electrified cables supplying power to 59 Manhattan customers. It expanded over the next century to supply 80% of humanity. View consumption statistics for North America, Europe, and China.
Codero Rojo Mine (03:36)
Contemporary society would not function without electricity. Most of the world's electricity comes from coal. Time lapse photography shows coal exploration in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
Powering Global Electricity (02:01)
Global coal dependency has created a complex supply and demand network. View statistics of coal, nuclear, and natural gas powered plants around the world.
Oil Revolution (03:32)
In 1859, Edwin Drake developed a drilling technique to extract underground oil deposits. Production increased exponentially, setting humanity on a path to oil dependency. View global production statistics.
Oil Dependency (02:18)
Petroleum powers transportation and supports global trade. Hear examples of consumer products produced with oil derivatives.
Global Trade Network (03:27)
The international exchange of goods defines modern civilization. Originating in China, the Silk Routes connected east and west for the first time. In the 14th century, war made them impassable—prompting a search for an alternative route.
European Discovery of America (03:29)
In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic to find a route to the Far East. He landed in America, ushering in a golden age of trade-driven discovery. Shipping routes brought wealth and luxury goods to Europe.
Shipping Revolution (03:01)
In 1956, Malcolm McLean used containers to standardize the process of loading and unloading ships—lowering shipping costs and increasing trade. View ocean routes from space.
Global Supermarket (02:02)
Shipping containers and trade routes made it possible to source food and goods around the world, a process we take for granted.
Travel Revolution (03:02)
New York City is the most linguistically diverse city worldwide. At any moment, 1.5 billion people are traveling somewhere. View a timeline of transportation innovations over the last 3,000 years, including the boat, stagecoach, steam train, and car.
Automobile Revolution (03:26)
In 1908, Henry Ford designed an assembly line mass producing his Model T. Today, 35 million miles of roads link cities, countries, and continents, and support over one billion vehicles. Cars transformed where and how we live.
Age of Aviation (03:39)
In 1903, the Wright Brothers tested their flying innovation—leading to global air travel. View global plane routes and flight statistics. Today, we can reach 90% of locations on the planet within 48 hours.
Internet Revolution (01:54)
Smartphones changed society by allowing us to connect and share our experiences globally. Hear email and social media statistics.
Mass Communication Innovation (03:24)
In 1450, Johannes Gutenberg made metal letters, speeding the printing process and lowering costs. Books and newspapers were the fastest communication methods until the electric telegraph shortened message transmission times.
Globalized Communication (04:38)
In 1858, the Transatlantic Cable connected Europe and North America. Today, submarine fiber optic cable connects all continents. The internet allows instantaneous communication and shapes most aspects of daily life.
Applying Internet Technology (02:31)
A globalized network supplies us with food, power, goods, transportation, and communication. Data also gives us insight into the future world and exposes our vulnerabilities.
Population Growth Challenge (04:02)
Humans are expected to peak at nine billion by 2050. We must find a way to ensure adequate food, water, and energy on a planet with finite resources.
Environmental Sustainability Challenge (02:46)
Climate change is projected to accelerate with population growth. NASA's Terra satellite reveals air pollution from fossil fuels. Data can help us find sustainable solutions.
Food Sustainability Challenge (03:51)
Feeding nine billion people requires land for crops and livestock, water, and energy—resources that release carbon dioxide. View global agricultural land use statistics. Farm productivity must double by 2050.
Green Sense Farm (01:15)
A Chicago urban farm grows crops vertically under LED lights, cutting land and water use by 90% and harvesting 26 times per year.
Water Sustainability Challenge (03:50)
Only one percent of Earth's water is available for human use. Learn how many liters of water are used to produce a meal and how much water is diverted from rivers for agriculture. View satellite images of the shrinking Aral Sea.
Increasing Crop Yields (02:58)
Growing food that helps preserve land and water will be critical in the future. London scientists engineer wheat plants to produce more grain. Learn about selective breeding and genetic modification technologies.
Agricultural Biotechnology (03:13)
Some people are concerned that genetically engineered crops will contaminate the environment. Innovations could increase arable cultivation area. Locally grown food would reduce CO2 emissions from long distance transportation.
Energy Sustainability Challenge (03:07)
Global power demand will increase with population growth. By 2050, seven billion will live in cities that will require coal and oil for construction and maintenance. Hear projected statistics for increased transportation requirements, including car consumption in China.
Fossil Fuel Projections (02:14)
Global energy needs will double by 2050. Oil demand will increase by 110% and over 1,000 new coal plants will be built. Oil will last an estimated 50 years at current consumption rates; exhausting coal reserves will accelerate climate change.
Climate Change Predictions (01:43)
Super storms like Hurricane Sandy will increase in frequency, threatening burgeoning coastal populations. Flooding will threaten one billion by 2050. Reducing fossil fuels will be a necessity.
Ivanpah Solar Electric Plant (02:16)
A California power station uses innovative technology to provide electricity to 140,000 homes—saving 45,000 tons of coal annually.
Renewable Energy Alternatives (03:10)
Wind power is the world's most successful fossil fuel alternative. Tidal power technology is being developed. View statistics for countries using solar and wind power.
Future of Humanity (04:27)
Over the last 12,000 years, society has undergone a dramatic transformation. With interconnectivity comes interdependency; the planet must support nine billion people by 2050. Experts believe human ingenuity will solve sustainability challenges.
Credits: Humanity from Space (01:01)
Credits: Humanity from Space
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