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September 19, 2013
Few places on our planet have been unaffected by humans. Satellite images taken from hundreds of kilometres above Earth reveal a world irrevocably changed by our land use over just the past few decades.
From Arctic tundra to primeval rainforest to arid desert, our natural world is being fragmented by ever-expanding towns and cities, roads, transmission lines and pipelines, and pockmarked by mines, pump jacks, flare stacks and other infrastructure used to drill, frack and strip-mine fossil fuels.
Areas that have remained relatively free of industrial development have thus taken on a special significance. They’re places where a wide range of animals feed, breed and roam in large numbers, where rivers run wild and indigenous people fish, hunt and practise traditional ways.
In Canada, they include awe-inspiring landscapes like the boreal forests of Pimachiowin Aki straddling the Manitoba-Ontario border, Gwaii Haanas off Canada’s West Coast and the Sacred Headwaters (called Tl’abāne in the local Tahltan language and pronounced Klabona in English) in northwestern B.C. The latter is the birthplace of three of the continent’s great salmon rivers, the Stikine, Skeena and Nass.
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