Since the 1960’s, political and social activism towards environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, ozone depletion, and species extinction has skyrocketed exponentially. Looking back on the events that directed our nation’s priorities towards being more green, many of the large scale shifts can be traced back to some form of digital media.

Innovations in photography, space technology, television, and many other areas can all be attributed to the increasingly accurate depiction of Earth’s condition. Due to the increasing media coverage it’s receiving, our society is becoming more and more conscientious of how we impact the health of the environment.

The Blue Marble Shot
One of the most reproduced photographs in history was taken as a quick snapshot some 28,000 miles from Earth on Dec. 7, 1972. The precise nature of the space expedition made the number of cameras on board very limited, and pictures were suppose to be taken sparingly.

However, on this day, an unknown crew member of Apollo 17 snapped a picture out the window while passing
in between the Earth and the sun, which has since come to be known as “The Blue Marble Shot”. This image was the first, and last, picture showing the whole round Earth taken by a human being.

After being discovered after the voyage in a dark room, the image became one of the most reproduced photographs in history. It could be found on billboards, t-shirts, buttons; almost any surface it could be printed on.

The stark realistic quality of the image spawned social movements to help protect the environment, further pushing the pro-environment protests of the 1970’s. Though the passengers of Apollo 17 still can’t agree on who took the photo, it’s impact has reached every corner of the earth.

The blackness that surrounded the insignificant blue orb of Earth encouraged the idea that Earth was a single, finite system, and spurred protests for environmental protection. Countless laws have been passed since in protection of wilderness in part due to “The Blue Marble Shot”.

Messages in the Media
Before 2001, a majority of the ocean environment remained alien to the public, until the airing of David Attenborough narrated series The Blue Planet was released. The series took almost five years and 200 filming locations to create.

In addition to being the first group to record several animal behaviors on camera, the filming crew also discovered several that were completely new to science.

Many more memorable examples of social impactive media are films; former Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth (2006) is a prime example.

The former Vice President’s Oscar-winning attempt to educate the public on climate change. According to a study done by the Nielsen Company, 89 percent of people said the film had made them more aware of global warming, and 75 percent said that they had changed some of their habits as a result of their new awareness.

Planet Earth II
In 2006, British television series Planet Earth was aired on BBC One. With 5 years and $25 million in the making, it was the most expensive nature documentary ever commissioned by the BBC as well as the first in high definition.

Ten years later, it was announced that a six-part sequel would be released in late 2016. While some criticism arose in regards to the show’s integration of both natural and artificial noises into the soundtrack, the show was generally well received and premiered several new filming techniques that revolutionize how humans view nature.

Over the past 50 years, innovations in technology, science, and photography have allowed us to view our world in a stunning and completely new fashion. A curious side effect has accompanied these advances; increased environmental awareness and activism. From the iconic “Blue Marble Shot” taken on Apollo 17 to something as recent as Planet Earth II, media has shaped the way we see, feel, and think about the natural world that surrounds us.