In these images, photographer J Henry Fair documents the unsustainable consumption of our planet’s natural resources, like petroleum. He says his work “is a response to my vision of society” and his aim was to make the photos "beautiful and frightening simultaneously.” In this photo, overburden created by blasting is removed using various machines. Mining operations work around the clock at amazing speeds; this lonely patch of trees disappeared in barely a day. The small bulldozer on the upper level pushes loose material down to the loader, which scoops it up into the next earth mover in line, which will dump it into a nearby valley fill, burying the stream there.
These are holding ponds at a coal-burning power plant. Both the combustion ash and the smokestack residue from coal-burning power plants are extremely toxic. Coal plants are a major source of radiation released into the environment; additionally, these plants release concentrated levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium, sulfates, boron and other contaminants.
This is a waste treatment aeration pond at a paper mill. This particular factory produces a popular facial tissue. The primary task of the treatment pond is to remove organics (wood fiber) from the water before it is returned to its source (typically a river). These ponds are filled with a mixture of microorganisms that break down the organic material. The aeration process breaks up particles in the effluent and provides oxygen to the microbes.
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 earthen dams across the ends of a valleys. On numerous occasions, impoundments have failed, releasing large quantities of the toxic mixture to devastate the valley below.
This photo shows a plume of foam in bauxite waste. Producing aluminum metal involves refining bauxite (the ore), using caustic chemicals and tremendous amounts of electricity to produce alumina, and the electrolytic reduction of alumina to produce aluminum. This depicts the disposal of the byproducts, in which the solids (mostly impurities in the bauxite) are separated from the liquids. Also, during primary aluminum production, PFCs (CF4 and C2F6) are emitted as byproducts of the smelting process, both significant greenhouse gases.
This photo shows a bulldozer pushing petroleum coke. Petroleum coke is a solid high carbon material that is produced as a byproduct of the oil refining process. It can serve as either an energy source or carbon source. Fuel grade petroleum coke, which serves as an energy source, represents about 71 percent of the total petroleum coke production. This product is burned to produce energy used in making cement, lime, co-generation and other industrial applications. Products that utilize petroleum coke as a carbon source include aluminum (calcined coke) and steel (metallurgical coke).
These fertilizer waste channels, created from the processing of raw phosphate with sulphuric acid, are radioactive and acidic, and are clearly mixing with surface water, thus groundwater. Chemical fertilizer is the catalyst that powers the modern industrial agricultural revolution, but estimates predict that the supply of phosphate will be exhausted in 50 years or so. Also, petroleum-based fertilizers deplete the nutrients from the soil, and the bodies of the people eating the harvest of that soil. Finally, the fertilizers erode from the point of application and work down through the water systems, creating dead zones in streams, lakes and oceans.
This outlet pipe is at the bottom of a giant phosphate waste impoundment in Florida, and forms a stream that eventually empties into the water table.
This is the "test discharge" of phosphate-processing byproducts. Phosphate is washed after extraction, and the waste products are consolidated and pumped out to containment impoundments, where the liquids and solids are separated.
Here, a loader is putting trees onto a conveyor, in line to be pulped. The pulp will be use in various consumer products like paper towels, toilet paper, etc.
Here you can see the remnants of a once bustling aluminum plant in Baton Rouge.
This is an image of a waste pit for drilling mud; byproducts from these mining operations include 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 on the bottom right is a violation and a danger to any water bodies below.
This image shows another waste pit at a hydro-fracing drill site. Again, we see a waste pit for drilling mud. The overspray in this image can be seen at the top, and is, again, a violation and a danger to any water bodies downhill.
This hydro-fracing site has a holding pond from which compounds are allowed to evaporate into the air, and what looks like an old chemical spill.
Here, the gas drilling rights dwarf the farm that hosts them. Some farmers who have signed leases are exploring legal means of escape. Hydro-fracing can deplete the water table in the area, contaminate the wells on the host property as well as those nearby, aside from being a horrible eyesore.
In this image, we see the Millennium Pipeline Path, Delaware River, and the town of Hancock, N.Y. The pipeline's course, identified by the denuded strip, is clearly visible from the air. In spite of its name, the pipeline has already been disinterred to increase its capacity.