Thursday, January 12, 2006
The San Francisco Chronicle ran a nice piece yesterday about how geospatial rendering software programs like Google Earth and World Wind, from NASA, are bringing the Big Blue Marble to desktops and helping grassroots environmentalists in the fight to save wilderness. After the Sierra Summit in September, at which Google Earth was a prominent exhibitor, we used the program to develop our own interactive maps of Alaska and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We found that we were able to show visitors 3-D satellite imagery of the remote region, while also mapping out such things as the Prudhoe Bay oil fields and the migration routes of the Porcupine caribou herd. Perhaps most revealing was the map showing all the existing oil wells in the state, which put the lie to the notion that Alaska and the North Slope were somehow off-limits to the energy industry. Indeed, most of it is already being tapped -- a message we were able to get out just before the crucial vote on whether to include Arctic drilling in the budget bill. Did the maps make a difference? As Eric Antebi, our press secretary, observed, "If the 5,000 people who checked out the feature were even a tiny bit more inspired to work the issue with their elected representatives, then who's to say it didn't put us over the top?"