You Won't Believe What Humans Can Accomplish With Just Plastic Sheeting

How lots of tiny acts can change how a continent looks from space

Today, with the help of Google Maps, we’ll look at the city of El Ejido in Spain.

Google Maps

See those white rectangles? Those are, technically, green houses, though they’re not much like the greenhouses you’d see at a garden nursery. Google Street View reveals they look like this:

Google Street View

They’re little more than plastic and metal piping. In 2000, an article in The Economist called them “plastic awnings to intensify the sun's rays.”

Here’s one zoom level higher. Notice the scale of those structures.

Google Maps

There are so many of them.

Google Maps

Zoom another layer out, there are still more.

Google Maps

And more…

Google Maps

And more…

Google Maps

And still more…

Google Earth

And they don’t just cover that little nub of land, either. Zoom out further, and you’ll see they branch into the surrounding countryside.

Google Earth

And switching to NASA’s Blue Marble imagery, here are El Ejido’s greenhouses against the tip of Spain and the northern coasts of Morocco and Algeria.

 

And here’s the entire Iberian peninsula, back in Google Earth. You can still see El Ejido’s greenhouses.

 

And here’s the entire continent:

Google Earth

Look down and find that tiny nub on the southern coast of Spain: That patch, as white as the Alps, is a set of manmade structures. Those structures are made of plastic and metal piping, the kind of materials you could find at a local Home Depot. It’s just thousands of these:

Google Maps

Which, from the ground, look like this:

Google Street View

And—accumulated by capital and climate change—come together into something which can easily be seen in an image thousands of miles tall by thousands of miles wide.

Via Charlie Loyd.

Presented by

Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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