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Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Mining Hard Rocks: Polluting, Royalty-Free (Image 1 of 10)

“This photo was taken in the California Gulch Superfund Site in Leadville, Colo. After several decades of cleanup, there is now a 12.5-mile Mineral Belt Trail that passes through the Superfund site and gives visitors a glimpse of the history and scars of hard rock mining in the American West.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

The Boreal: A Great Forest Under Threat (Image 2 of 10)

“Near Winnipeg in Manitoba, I took an aerial photo of a log yard of old-growth trees from the boreal forest. Scientists now know that the boreal forest plays a key role in the future of climate change. Huge amounts of carbon and methane are locked up in the bogs and permafrost. If these greenhouse gases are released by global warming, the consequences are frightening.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Global Freshwater: Not Enough to Go Around (Image 3 of 10)

“In Calcutta, where this image was shot, most homes in the city had a tube well, so adults would bathe children on the street corner. In New Delhi, a city water pipe passed right over a group of squatters. The tap water was headed for the people in the city, but the infrastructure was old, so the leaks provided at least some water for the poor people living under the pipe.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

The Most Beautiful Place in the World (Image 4 of 10)

“Some like Paris for the ambience, Tuscany for the food, or the Holy Land for a spiritual encounter. But for scenery, Patagonia is hard to beat. In my humble opinion, Torres del Paine National Park — Patagonia’s Crown Jewel — is the most beautiful place in the world.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Climate Change: Bugs Like it Better than Frogs (Image 5 of 10)

“Frogs are facing problems because a fungus called chytridiomycosis, which is lethal to them, becomes more active in warmer climates. The fungus has been proposed as a contributing factor in the global decline of 30 percent of the world’s amphibian populations.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Chance Encounter: A Symbol of Technology Gone Wrong (Image 6 of 10)

“During the course of this assignment, I took pictures of all sorts of e-waste and many people doing the recycling work. However, this is the picture that people request the most often. I believe this is because it puts a human face on an issue that can seem quite distant.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Darwin at 200: An Extraordinary Voyage and Place (Image 7 of 10)

“My main destination was Pia Bay, where it looked like I could get a picture of the tidewater glaciers and the rugged Darwin Cordillera in the background. On January 29, 1833, Darwin wrote of this spot, ‘It is scarcely possible to imagine any thing more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow.’” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Canadian Oil Sands: Money Can Justify Anything (Image 8 of 10)

“There is a lot of difficult-to-recover oil out there, but according to the climate change models, we must make a decision to leave it in the ground and switch to noncarbon fuel sources now. However, as the booming oil sands industry reveals, this switch isn’t happening, and we all should be concerned.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Adapting to Change: An Example from Greenland (Image 9 of 10)

“This picture tells an important story of cultural change brought on by climate change. The elements are all there: the melting ice cap, the land, the potatoes, and the Inuit, former hunters who are now becoming farmers.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World

Lake Erie: A Not-So-Natural Summer Green (Image 10 of 10)

“I was working on a story about nitrogen fertilizer runoff, and I hired a plane in Toledo, Ohio, so I could take aerial photos of the algal bloom that had been detected on Lake Erie in mid-July. It was a much greater scale than I had imagined. To my surprise there were still a lot of people in boats on the lake. Either they were oblivious to the toxic water they were sailing upon, or perhaps the bloom was not as apparent from the ground as it was from the air. Or maybe the boaters were just used to green water in the late summer.” Peter Essick from Our Beautiful, Fragile World


Peter Essick is a photojournalist who specializes in nature and the environment. His new book, Our Beautiful, Fragile World, features work done on assignment for National Geographic over his 25-year career. Spanning the planet and its most beautiful places, the book shines light on some of the biggest environmental challenges we face today.

In the foreword, Jean-Michel Cousteau writes, “My father [legendary ocean explorer and conservationist Jacques-Yves Cousteau] always used to say, ‘People protect what they love.’ It’s obvious that Peter has the passion and knowledge to communicate his love of nature through the art of photography. He desires to share his message that it is possible to live in harmony with nature.”

These featured images, accompanied by Essick’s own words, are reproduced courtesy of the publisher, Rocky Nook. View Ensia homepage

Add Your Comments
  • Jane Manifold Mar. 9th, 2014
    Congratulations on a wonderful set of photographs! It certainly is an excellent way to portray an urgent environmental message.

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