Tar Sands: Bitumen
Tar Sands: Bitumen

After the bitumen saturated sand is strip mined, it is mixed with hot water and toxic chemicals to begin the separation of petroleum from sand and other matter. After the bitumen is removed, vast quantities of "tailings" remain, which are the residue containing everything but the bitumen.

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Tar Sands: Tailings Pond
Tar Sands: Tailings Pond

Patterns in oil sands tailings pond.

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Tar Sands: Oil Sands Upgrader
Tar Sands: Oil Sands Upgrader

Inside of tank at oil sands upgrader.

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Tar Sands: Sulphur
Tar Sands: Sulphur

Sulphur is a byproduct of the tar sands upgrading process, and though it has many industrial uses (most significantly in fertilizer production). The current market price is quite low, so Syncrude is storing it for future sale.

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Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining
Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining

The small stand of trees on the left and the forested hills in the background show the pristine nature of the forests being devastated at this mountaintop removal site. As the coal is removed from one hole, the "overburden" from the next area is pushed into it.

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Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining
Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining

Coal, essentially super compressed plant matter, exists in one form or another around much of the world and has historically served as a fuel for many purposes. Coal in the ground is part of the larger water system of the planet, acting as a filter as water percolates down to the aquifer below. When the soil, trees, and other flora are stripped off, rainwater, instead of soaking into the living soil, reacts with the exposed coal producing acid mine drainage.

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Mountain Top Coal Mining
Mountain Top Coal Mining

Coal must be washed with water and processed with a variety of chemicals before it is used. This creates tremendous volumes of "slurry" which is stored in impoundments created by building an earthen dam across the end of a valley. On numerous occasions, impoundments have failed, releasing large quantities of the toxic mixture to devastate the valley below.

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Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining
Mountain Top Removal Coal Mining

In this overview, all stages of this process of mining can be seen from the clearing of virgin forest at the top to removal of earth in the middle and lower right to expose the black coal seams.

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Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany
Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany

Cross section of earth with marks from digging machine. The yellow earth is unwanted "overburden" and will be stacked aside.

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Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany
Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany

Waste liquid at lignite mine site

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Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany
Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany

This bucket-wheel excavator is digging in the top layer of earth and coal with the conveyor in the background. The "dirt" is overburden and will be set aside in neat rows, and the coal goes straight to the power station.

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Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany
Brown Coal Mining in Köln, Germany

As the Baggers dig through earth of varied composition, the coal is conveyed to the furnaces, and the non-useful material is stacked to the side to be used as fill.

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Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania
Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

Waste pit at hydro-fracking drill site. Drilling slurry from the shale layer is radioactive due to the uranium of the layer and contains the chemicals used in the drilling.

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Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania
Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

Overspray of drilling slurry at hydro-fracking drill site. Waste pit of drilling mud (byproduct from mining operations including rock debris, drill bit lubricants, and possibly residual radioactive material.) The type of waste being produced indicates that exploration is still in progress. The overspray at the top is a violation and a danger to any water bodies downhill.

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Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania
Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

Drill site with church in background. Will our society sacrifice all that is holy to the god of easy energy?

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Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania
Natural Gas Drilling in Pennsylvania

Hydro-fracking drill sites, feeder pipelines, and access roads and gravel banks for road building, all causing habitat fragmentation.

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Fertilizer
Fertilizer

The word fertilizer evokes a pastoral image of grazing cattle transforming a sun-drenched field of grass into nutrients for crops, beckoning us back to simpler times. However, the super-productive modern agricultural system is fed by mineral phosphate, the principal American source being Florida, where its strip-mined extraction devastates vast areas of undeveloped wildlands, and ends with a dead zone in the ocean, where it finally comes to rest after wreaking havoc on the soil, watersheds and a

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Fertilizer
Fertilizer

Phosphate fertilizer mining waste. The process of making phosphate fertilizer begins with the surface mining of phosphate, now primarily done in Florida. Large areas are overturned to obtain the phosphate, which is processed with volumes of sulphuric acid, leaving large residues of radioactive, acidic waste, and producing large amounts of fluorine gas, which is extremely toxic to all animals.

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Fertilizer
Fertilizer

Dragon shape in phosphate fertilizer mining waste.

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Fertilizer
Fertilizer

Heavy metal waste from fertilizer production. This is one of the top 10% most polluting factories in the USA. It is known to be a major emitter of lead, but the fertilizer industry in particular has been effective in pressuring the EPA to reduce the reporting requirements to which it is subject, making the clear picture of its emissions difficult.

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Coal Ash
Coal Ash

Waste pond near brown coal fired electricity generating station.

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Coal Ash
Coal Ash

Waste pond near brown coal fired electricity generating station.

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Coal Ash
Coal Ash

Moncks Corner, South Carolina

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Coal Ash
Coal Ash

Each year, coal plants generate about 130 million tons of liquid and solid waste.

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Factory Farming
Factory Farming

The animals live in extremely cramped spaces, sullied with their own excrement, are often aggressive and injurious to each other, thus antibiotics are given continuously to the whole group.

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Factory Farming
Factory Farming

Hogs are kept in sheds with grated floors that allow everything to pass down to the pipes that drain to large waste lagoons. All manner of waste collects in these impoundments, from fetuses to fecal matter. Due to the drugs and hormones fed the sows (females), their feces are pink. Once this aggregate is together in a lagoon,the wind will tend to accumulate the floating solids in one place.

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Factory Farming
Factory Farming

This fetus faced away from me as I tried vainly to make it seem real. Finally, careful that no cell phone, camera, or person fell into the lagoon, I found a stick and turned the subject around to face the camera.

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Factory Farmning
Factory Farmning

Hog waste is stored in lagoons until it can be sprayed onto fields for disposal. The eastern part of North Carolina is characterized by many estuary systems. In the wetlands the elevated nutrient level from the fecal matter causes rampant algae growth. The algae is toxic, and absorbs all the dissolved oxygen in the water, which suffocates the other life forms.

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BP Gulf Spill
BP Gulf Spill

Oil from BP Gulf Macondo well blowout on Gulf of Mexico.

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BP Gulf Spill
BP Gulf Spill

Excess gas captured from leaking Macondo well being flared.

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BP Gulf Spill
BP Gulf Spill

Oil from BP Deepwater Horizon spill at the BP Macondo well floats on the Gulf of Mexico.

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BP Gulf Spill
BP Gulf Spill

Oil from BP Macondo spill in Gulf of Mexico.

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"The vivid color photographs of J Henry Fair lead an uneasy double life as potent records of environmental pollution and as ersatz evocations of abstract painting...information and form work together, to devastating effect." 

                                                                    -Roberta Smith, The New York Times