With sweeping, aerial images of swimming pools, hurricane damage, gasoline refineries and golf courses, pilot and photographer Alex MacLean is making a serious statement: that it's impossible to sustain the current American lifestyle on a planet with diminishing natural resources. His book Over: The American Landscape At The Tipping Point presents, literally, a big-picture view of man's impact on the environment.
The Granite Reef Aqueduct, a man-made canal that has the carrying capacity of 1,800 cubic feet per second, diverts water from the Colorado River at Lake Havasu to central and southern Arizona. This aqueduct is part of the $4 million Central Arizona Project, designed to bring water into arid municipalities including Phoenix and Tucson, and irrigates farmland in central Arizona.
Recreational trailers appear to spill out of the hills near Lake Havasu, north of Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Smog settles between hills north of downtown Phoenix. In the Phoenix metropolitan area, the natural inversion layer traps rising particulates and forms "brown cloud" as the ground heats up during the day. Smog affects inhabitants of urban populations who already suffer from respiratory ailments, and continued suburban growth contributes to declining air quality.
Tract housing blankets the Phoenix suburbs and fills in the area's expansive valleys. Zoned single-use suburban landscapes virtually necessitate a car, and enclave neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs make it difficult to navigate through the area.
In Glendale, Ariz., subdivisions are built around artificial retention basins.
Isolated exurban communities in Utah built on cheap agricultural land depend on cars for nearly every activity. To access urban centers, residents often have to commute long distances. Because the land is virtually undeveloped, all aspects of modern infrastructure (water, sewer, electric and roads) must be extended.
The intersection of Interstate 15 and Interstate 80 extends three-quarters of a mile in Salt Lake City. The production of cement, a component of concrete, accounts for 5 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
In Waltham, Mass., parking lots paved with impermeable materials quickly send runoff with surface contaminants into streams and sewers, and prevent rainfall infiltration and ground water recharge. In the summer, they become heat islands, greatly increasing the surrounding temperatures.
Despite the destructive hurricanes and rising sea levels that have hit the Sunny Isles community in Florida, developers continue to build close to the shoreline. Trump Towers Miami is one of many high-rise structures going up on the coast between Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Before rice is planted, the earth is flooded with elevated groundwater. This process, known as wet seeding, is extremely water intensive, and pumping can become costly. The flooded land also serves as an ideal environment for methane production. Methane, a major greenhouse gas, is about 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Harborwalk is a planned waterfront community built on wetlands on the western coast of Galveston Bay, Texas. In the coming century, this land will be some of the most vulnerable on the Texas coast to sea-level rise, yet developers continue to construct low-lying homes to cash in on waterfront property values.
America's transportation infrastructure includes an unseen network of ships, tanks, pipelines and trucks that ultimately move fuel to end-users at the pump. The Houston Ship Channel on the Gulf Coast is a central hub for receiving imported oil.
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Winner of the prestigious German Lead Award for 2009, MacLean presents a compelling, if not convincing, case. His work prompts us to reconsider our lifestyles "and reveals that, while the challenges we face today are not insurmountable, the future depends on our collective vision, passion and commitment." View more images from the book on MacLean's Web site.
All images are Copyright, 2008 Alex S. MacLean/Landslides Aerial Photography.