What's really happening to our planet, in 3 infographics

ShutterstockBernhard Staehli

This article was first featured on Ensia.

How did today’s environmental challenges arise? What are their implications? And what can we do to solve them?

Illuminating the answers to these questions is the goal of the more than 100 infographics that comprise "What’s Really Happening to Our Planet," British environmentalist Tony Juniper’s latest book.

Tony Juniper

The carbon footprint of individuals — essentially, the greenhouse gas emissions attributable to all the products and services they use — varies dramatically from country to country. Each year in the United Kingdom, an average citizen racks up 11 tons worth of emissions in everything from recreation to defense.

The book clearly shows that climate change didn’t appear out of thin air, and agricultural challenges didn’t magically materialize from the ground. Instead, humankind acted over decades and centuries to create the conditions that threaten us today — many of which risk further exacerbation by growing human population and consumption.

Tony Juniper

We need to talk trash: In 2000, humans threw out 3.3 million tons of waste each day, a sixfold increase from just a century before. Without better efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle, that number could hit 13.3 million tons by 2100.

Fortunately, as the book also illustrates, with concerted action there is opportunity to find our way out of some of the most stubborn environmental troubles, such as polluted air, scarce freshwater, rising seas and wasted resources.

Tony Juniper

Despite scores of pages depicting dramatic changes to Earth’s environment and dire consequences for living things, Juniper urges us not to despair — but points out that to flip the script, we’ll need big changes in everything from energy to infrastructure to agriculture.

The infographics above offer a sampler of the environmental challenges, consequences and solutions presented in "What’s Really Happening to Our Planet."