The Earth's #10YearChallenge Is Grim

People are co-opting the hashtag to talk about climate change and the environment.

|
Jan 17 2019, 7:47pm

Image: NASA Oceans Melting Greenland mission

What happens when the #10YearChallenge meme is applied to Earth? Rather than glowing up, before-and-after photos remind us how dramatically the health of our planet has declined.

The meme has existed for several years now in various forms, BuzzFeed’s deputy global news director Ryan Broderick pointed out. At its simplest, the #10YearChallenge is a socially acceptable excuse to post your most flattering selfies as evidence of how much hotter you’ve grown with age (or not).

And on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, people are now using the hashtag to share side-by-side comparisons of Amazon deforestation, melting glaciers, polluted waterways, and other environmental woes.

It’s worth noting that not all of the photos are a decade apart or scientifically accurate evidence of climate change.

One popular image comes from the NASA Earth Observatory and depicts clearcutting of the Amazon rainforest in the Brazilian state of Rondônia between 1975 and 2012.

Greenpeace shared an iconic image from Swedish photojournalist Christian Åslund of glacier retreat in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard between the early 1900s and 2002.

And beware posts that may be misrepresentative.

For example, an infamous photo from 2015 of a heartbreakingly thin polar bear is again making the rounds. But, as Mashable reported at the time, the bear may have been old, injured, or sick, and not starving due to the effects of climate change on prey availability.

Another image claims to shows before-and-after deforestation between 2009 and 2019 in an unnamed forest. However, as one Reddit user pointed out, the original photo—a royalty-free image from Shutterstock—has been manipulated and misattributed to the World Wildlife Fund by use of its watermark.

Palm oil deforestation in Borneo.
Image: Shutterstock

The trend follows a recent series of increasingly grim climate studies. One found that hotter ocean temperatures are making waves stronger and deadlier. Another revealed that Antarctica is losing six times as much ice mass as it was 40 years ago. And a third announced that 2017 was the ocean’s warmest year on record.

So consider the challenge a warning. We may not be able to change the past, but that doesn’t mean we can’t control our future.

Stories