Ben Grant was looking for satellite images of planet Earth. Instead, he found himself looking at Earth, Texas.
While working at a brand consulting firm in New York a few years back, Grant started a space club “as an excuse to bring people together to eat lunch,” he says. For one session, he tried to pull some satellite images so the group could talk about how satellites work.
“I thought if I typed in the word ‘Earth,’ Apple Maps would zoom out and show the entire planet, but it actually went to Earth, Texas,” Grant says.
Suddenly, his screen was filled with a strange pattern. Hundreds and hundreds of perfect circles, evenly spaced, in some kind of divine pattern. They were irrigation fields, he says, but he had never seen anything like it before.
Inspired by his accidental aerial discovery, Grant started investigating the overview effect: The idea that seeing our world in its entirety can give us a new understanding of what it means to be alive.
The term is typically reserved for astronauts who get the life-changing experience of viewing the entire Earth at once from space, but Grant wondered if he could feel the same thing by viewing the most miraculous and mesmerizing satellite images he could find.
From there, the Daily Overview was born: A project where Grant would show the world the most stunning man-made landscapes on the planet.
“I didn’t know what that meant or if it’d be showing the negative or the positive or everything in between, but it just started from there,” he says.
Here are some of Grant’s favorite shots, painstakingly stitched together from raw satellite data and color-enhanced to give us a completely fresh perspective on human impact.
1. Irrigated fields in Earth, Texas. The photo that started it all.
2. The Gemasolar Thermosolar plant near Seville, Spain.
3. Tulip fields near Lisse, Netherlands.
4. The Port of Antwerp in Belgium.
5. The villas of Marabe Al Dhafra in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
6. A water community in Delray Beach, Florida.
7. A highway interchange in Jacksonville, Florida.
8. A community in Sun Lakes, Arizona.
9. Ipanema Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
10. Burning Man festival in Black Rock Desert, Nevada.
11. An airplane graveyard in Victorville, California.
12. A section of the Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert, in Saudi Arabia.
13. And drainage systems around the Shadegan lagoon in Iran.
Grant says that while the pictures have gotten a lot of attention for being beautiful, he’s most proud of how his project has made people stop and think.
“When people think about climate change or the way we’re impacting the planet, they often think of trees being cut down or icebergs melting or heat rising off the pavement,” he says. “That’s kind of overdone now. People don’t even see that image anymore.”
The Daily Overview, he says, offers a different perspective of human impact: the good, the bad, and everything in between. It catches people’s attention with mesmerizing images, then makes them ask questions and think about what they’re seeing. And, at least Grant hopes, “that leads to people acting in service of the planet.”
“There’s something powerful in looking at the world this way, and it’s changed people,” Grant says. “I hope the work that I’m doing continues to change people.”