Is Google Earth One of the Most Powerful Environmental Protection Tools We Have?


Appalachian Voices has made this Google Earth layer showing Appalachian the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining. Yes, that brown area used to be a mountain.

Various TreeHugger writers, myself included, have written a number of times about all the cool things people are doing with Google Earth to discover, monitor and increase awareness about environmental issues around the world. If you want to get up to speed on some of the really interesting things being done with this free software check out a new piece in Yale Environment 360 by Rhett Butler of Mongabay.com:Plan Biological Expeditions From Your Desk Chair
You may have seen how last October scientists made several new species discoveries in a remote are of Mozambique. What you may not have heard is that the entire expedition was planned with the help of Google Earth. Conservationist Julian Bayliss found the site for the expedition and helped plan the expedition, which he later lead, through Google Earth.

Remote Sensing for the Masses

But perhaps the most revolutionary advance in using satellites to monitor the planet has been the ever-widening use of remote sensing technology by ordinary citizens. Google Earth has been instrumental in this development and represents a critical point in its evolution, allowing anyone with an Internet connection to attach data to a geographic representation of Earth. Citizens and environmental groups are now using Google Earth to tracks threats to pristine rivers from hydroelectric projects, catalogue endangered species, help indigenous people in the Amazon protect their land, and alert citizens and government officials that boats are illegally fishing off the Canary Islands.

Google Earth Also Used for Original Research
One thing I find particularly interesting is that Google Earth is also being used to do original research:
One study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science last year, was based on an analysis of 8,510 cattle spotted in Google Earth images of 308 pastures and plains around the world. Surprisingly, two-thirds of the cattle — as well as a majority of 3,000 grazing deer monitored in satellite photos from the Czech Republic — tended to align themselves with the Earth's magnetic field lines, in a north-south direction. The research employed satellite technology to spot a phenomenon that literally had been hiding in plain sight for millennia: that large, non-migratory land animals were affected by the earth’s magnetism. (Earlier studies had established that magnetism guided the long-distance migrations of birds, fish, butterflies, and animals.)

Butler goes into far greater detail about the history and narrative of the situation, so download Google Earth if you haven't done so already, and then check out the entire original article: Satellites and Google Earth Prove Potent Conservation Tool
Google Earth, Conservation
New Google Earth Layer Shows Global Deforestation
Great New Google Earth Layer Maps US Carbon Emissions
New Species Discovered Via Google Earth
Bioneers 2008: Using Google Earth for Environmental Activism
7 Ways to Save the World with Google Earth on Your iPhone

Tags: Activism | Conservation | Deforestation | Google

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