This image, taken from NASA’s views of the earth at night, reveals a massive cluster of lights in what was until recently the desolate North Dakotan prairie. This is the location of the Bakken Shale, an oil-rich rock formation that stretches across parts of North Dakota, Montana and Canada. The light from the illuminated derricks, “man camps” and gas flares of the oil fields is more diffuse than a city like Minneapolis or Denver, but just as bright.

One of the biggest oil discoveries in recent history, the Bakken Shale has fueled a domestic oil boom and helped boost North Dakota’s GDP 32 percent in the last two years. In the spring of 2014, North Dakota pumped out more than a million barrels of oil per day, more than any other U.S. state besides Texas. Shale exploration has transformed the natural landscape and led to formation of mostly male oil boomtownswhere rents sometimes exceed those in Manhattan.

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