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Earth from Above: 365 Days    by Yann Arthus-Bertrand order for
Earth from Above
by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Order:  USA  Can
Harry N. Abrams, 2001

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This weighty volume was given to me by a dear friend who also introduced me to an exhibit of its photos last summer. It begins with stark statistics about the state of the world, for example the steadily decreasing share of the 50 poorest countries in world trade, and the fact that a billion people did not have access to potable water in the year 2000. The author's approach to our indifference to these problems is to 'bring the environment' to us via this amazing collection of photos and associated text explanations.

There is a top-down image, that takes us into one of the nooks and crannies of our world, for each of the 365 days of the year. Some of the photos echo the environmental concerns of the introduction, many simply show us the scenic beauty of the Earth, but all are superb. Each image is accompanied by a continental map with the location marked where the photograph was taken. There is also a description of what we are seeing.

Images range from the January 1st view of a dramatic storm over the Amazon rain forest (a warning of the increase in extreme weather conditions to come) to the December 31st view of a small boat on the Nile with an accompanying explanation of the ecological impact of the Aswan Dam. Many of the photos show patterns, both natural and man-made, like one of cotton fabrics drying in the sun in Jaipur, India or flamingoes (called 'birds with wings of flame' by the Greeks) in Kenya.

Those that impressed me most include a view of the Kingdom of Mustang, 'a human community capable of living in balance with its environment' in Nepal; a line of buckets leading to a deep well in a barren region of the Ivory Coast; the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto; a wooded islet in Alaska; 'The Tree of Life' in Kenya; and a glacier in Argentina. Earth from Above is a book to savor day by day, encouraging us to take in all these viewpoints on our world, and to think about man's and nature's impact on it.

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