2005 TED Prize winner Edward Burtynsky has made it his life's work to document humanity's impact on the planet. His riveting photographs, as beautiful as they are horrifying, capture views of the Earth altered by mankind.

Why you should listen

To describe Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky's work in a single adjective, you have to speak French: jolie-laide. His images of scarred landscapes -- from mountains of tires to rivers of bright orange waste from a nickel mine -- are eerily pretty yet ugly at the same time. Burtynsky's large-format color photographs explore the impact of humanity's expanding footprint and the substantial ways in which we're reshaping the surface of the planet. His images powerfully alter the way we think about the world and our place in it.

With his blessing and encouragement, WorldChanging.com and others use his work to inspire ongoing global conversations about sustainable living. Burtynsky's photographs are included in the collections of over 50 museums around the world, including the Tate, London and the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim in New York City. A large-format book, 2003's Manufactured Landscapes, collected his work, and in 2007, a documentary based on his photography, also called Manufactured Landscapes, debuted at the Toronto Film Festival before going on to screen at Sundance and elsewhere. It was released on DVD in March 2007. In 2008, after giving a talk at the Long Now Foundation, Burtynsky proposed "The 10,000 Year Gallery," which could house art to be curated over thousands of years preserved through carbon transfers in an effort to reflect the attitudes and changes of the world over time. 

When Burtynsky accepted his 2005 TED Prize, he made three wishes. One of his wishes: to build a website that will help kids think about going green. Thanks to WGBH and the TED community, the show and site Meet the Greens debuted at TED2007. His second wish: to begin work on an Imax film, which morphed into the jaw-dropping film Manufactured Landscapes with Jennifer Baichwal. And his third wish, wider in scope, was simply to encourage "a massive and productive worldwide conversation about sustainable living." Thanks to his help and the input of the TED community, the site WorldChanging.com got an infusion of energy that has helped it to grow into a leading voice in the sustainability community.

What others say

“One possible rap against his portfolio -- it prettifies the terrible. Burtynsky calls his images 'a second look at the scale of what we call progress,' and hopes that [they] acquaint viewers with the ramifications of our lifestyle.” — Washington Post

Edward Burtynsky on the TED Blog
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Live from TED2014

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By Liz Jacobs and Kate Torgovnick Are we on the brink of a resource crisis? All signs point to yes. As the human population grows, the planet is buckling under the pressure of our needs. In this inaugural All-Stars session, 11 classic TED speakers return to the stage to share their deep concern for preserving […]

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Photographing the landscape of oil: Edward Burtynsky on TED.com

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In stunning large-format photographs, Edward Burtynsky follows the path of oil through modern society, from wellhead to pipeline to car engine — and then beyond to the projected peak-oil endgame. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2009, July 2009, Oxford, UK. Duration: 3:40) Watch Edward Burtynsky’s talk on TED.com, where you can download this TEDTalk, rate it, comment […]

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TED Prize

How to get involved in TED Prize wishes

May 18, 2008

Since it began in 2005, the TED Prize has been making wishes that call on the power of the global TED community. Here’s a roundup of current TED Prize wishes that you can get involved in — in large or small ways, with money, ideas, time or skills: + In 2007, biologist E.O. Wilson wished […]

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Quotes from Edward Burtynsky

I think the environmental movement has failed in that it’s used the stick too much; it’s used the apocalyptic tone too much; it hasn’t sold the positive aspects of being environmentally concerned and trying to pull us out.
Edward Burtynsky
TED2005 • 521K views Oct 2006
Informative, Inspiring
We look at our two largest [oil] suppliers, Saudi Arabia and now Canada, with its dirty oil. Together they only form about 15 years of supply. The whole world, at 1.2 trillion estimated reserves, only gives us about 45 years.
Edward Burtynsky
TEDGlobal 2009 • 375K views Nov 2009
Informative, Persuasive