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The Green Life: Book Review: EarthArt

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December 12, 2013

Book Review: EarthArt

EARTH ART flat cover
EarthArt: Colours of the Earth (c) Phaidon Press, 2013

In Bernhard Edmaier's EarthArt: Colours of The Earth, (Phaidon, 2013) we learn that chemical weathering is responsible for the vivid, highlighter-hued yellow of the Crozon Peninsula in France. Flip a few pages, and we read that the rusty-red shade of crusted salt lakes indicates the presence of halophilic bacteria, microorganisms that thrive in saline conditions. A few chapters back, electric blue seas are explained by the depth of their water, jade green wetlands by their algae, and on and on as Edmaier and Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl take readers through the rainbow.

A number of things make EarthArt much more than just a coffee table book, chief among them the geologists' succinct and engaging scientific explanations of the colors and textures seen in Edmaier's aerial photos of the earth's surface. Accompanied by a quick introductory overview of color theory from Aristotle to Newton, the authors' brief descriptions of the science behind the natural hues in each color chapter add a depth to Edmaier's photos that make the book not just a work of art, but a genuinely good read.

Flip through the pages for a view of our planet as few have considered it before, jewel tones fading into deep and dusky hues, bumpy mountain ranges into smooth ribbons rivers and flat matte oceans. Grouping the images by color offers the reader an unusual and arresting picture of the earth's surface as a whole. Seldom are we given the opportunity to see the world as a progression of color, from glaciers to lava and back again. The grouping highlights the unique textures only aerial photos can capture: were it not for the Pared Norte glacier's velvety surface, its reddish browns would flow seamlessly across the page into the dusty, craggy mountain range of the Dolomites. For geology buffs and artists alike, EarthArt is a window into a very unique and fascinating picture of the earth's surface. 

Check out some of the photos below. 

033 Bahamas
© Bernhard Edmaier

Islands near Eleuthera, Bahamas
The seabed is very flat around these islands. Residents of the Bahamas can estimate the depth of the sea based on the color of the water. Up to a depth of 10 meters, the sea is greenish to turquoise, while deeper water is a sparkling blue. Currents have piled up the sand on the seabed to form underwater dunes. — Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl








075 Siberia
© Bernhard Edmaier

Lena Delta, Siberia
In the few weeks of summer, the tundra in the Arctic Lena Delta explodes. Mosses and grasses grow and blossom, and vast quantities of water plants thrive in the numerous, closely packed pools. The landscape, which is frozen for most of the year, turns green. The soil beneath the pools is permanently frozen, preventing the water from trickling away. — Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl







131 USA
© Bernhard Edmaier

Searles Lake, California, USA
Halophilic microorganisms that contain the same pigment that is found in tomatoes color the lake in the Mojave Desert red. Searles Lake is a drainless lake which collects rainwater from time to time. As the water evaporates in the heat of the sun, the lake becomes a marsh and the water turns to brine. The bacteria that slumbered in the seabed suddenly begin to multiply, causing the reddening. — Dr. Angelika Jung-Hüttl







151 Australia
© Bernhard Edmaier

Gibber Plains, Coober Pedy, Australia
The Australians call flat desert areas covered in loose rocks and stones of various sizes "gibber plains." Each individual stone has a dark, often shimmering purple iron oxide crust. When rainfall flushes out the fragile pavement of these stone deserts, or when gem hunters dig the ground for opals, then the pale subsoil becomes visible.








Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy
The lava of the Sicilian volcano Etna rolls like a glutinous pap into the valley, finally stiffening into a bulky, brittle crust. It takes days, sometimes even weeks, for the hot, glowing red magma, which is several hundred degrees Celsius, to cool down.











EarthArt: Colours of the Earth, photographs by Bernhard Edmaier, with text by Angelika Jung-Hüttl, $59.95, Phaidon 2013, www.phaidon.com. Images © Bernhard Edmaier from Earth Art: Colours of the Earth, used with permission. 



 Julie Eng is an editorial intern at Sierra. She studied literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and wrote for several publications before joining the Sierra team



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