This article is part of Fortune‘s Blueprint for a climate breakthrough package, guest edited by Bill Gates.
In the afterward of his newest book, The Human Planet: Earth at the Dawn of the Anthropocene, George Steinmetz calls himself “The Accidental Environmentalist.” After 40 years of traveling the world making photos, Steinmetz writes it had “become clear to me that we are entering an era of limits, because we can’t keep consuming resources at today’s pace if we wish to leave a habitable planet to the next generations. The classic narrative of man versus nature might need to be rethought, as a narrative of man with nature.”
The selection of photos document “how we are reshaping the world for our own purposes,” showing the technologies and methods humans have created to be “with nature.” In an interview with Fortune, Steinmetz noted that “the most arable land on this planet has been repurposed…We’ve carved it all up, and there’s not much original stuff left.”
Riding his motorized paraglider, though now more often using drones, Steinmetz hovers his lens low enough that we imagine ourselves inside the photo picking licorice plants—but high enough to reveal the surrounding landscape of vast fields of solar panels, and beyond that horizon line, the world. “From the air you can get a sense of the human footprint on the land,” he says.
“As a photographer, one of the great challenges is creating visual surprises and to show people things that either they’ve ever seen or to show them things they know in a different way. That’s really the goal for me,” Steinmetz concludes.
Explore Fortune’s Blueprint for a climate breakthrough package:
- Why it matters that the U.S. rejoined the Paris climate agreement
- Bill Gates on why the ‘miracles’ of solar and wind energy won’t save us from climate change—and the breakthroughs that just might
- This ancient Roman material could unlock the secret to building greener and longer-lasting buildings
- What the future of clean energy may depend on
- Bill Gates: How ‘Green Premiums’ can help us solve climate change
- These are the biggest trends in clean tech in 2021, investors say
- Dartmouth’s engineering dean on why buildings are the frontier for tackling climate change
- The electrification of the auto industry is speeding up—and shaking up the energy economy
- 8 photos show the ‘human footprint on the land’
- From concrete to steel, how construction makes up the ‘last mile’ of decarbonization
- Inside the ambitious venture Bill Gates built to beat climate change
- Business leaders hope they can satisfy Biden’s big climate goals with their own promises—not regulation
- Meet the next generation of global climate activists
- Review: In an important new book, Bill Gates offers a real-world plan for avoiding a ‘climate disaster’
- Why we asked Bill Gates to be Fortune’s guest editor today
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