Googling the Planet
I drew attention earlier in the week to the Jane Goodall Institute's cool new "geo-blog," in which blog entries from the Gombe chimpanzee reserve are integrated with the 3-D digital atlas, Google Earth. I didn't realize at the time what else was in the works from Google Earth; namely, a whole bunch of featured content within the program, including partnerships with the Discovery Networks, the National Park Service, and, coolest of all in my book, the United Nations Environment Programme's One Planet, Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment.
One Planet, Many People was released on Earth Day 2005 as a hardcover, print atlas. The book draws on NASA satellite imagery to tell the story of man's collective impact on the planet. You see, for example, in a series of time-stamped images spanning 30 years, the Amazon region around Rondonia, Brazil go from pristine rain forest to vast human settlement in just three decades. Similarly, you can see what drilling has done to Alaska's North Slope, around Prudhoe Bay, and witness the explosive growth of Las Vegas.
The material is a perfect match for the capabilities of Google Earth. To see it, simply check the box marked "Featured Content" in the navigation bar on the left hand of the Google Earth screen.
For those of you who don't have the program, it's free to download here. I highly recommend it. (And no, they don't pay me to say that, although Google folks, if you're reading, checks can be made payable to P Joseph c/o Sierra Club). My one hope is that Google will now team up with UNESCO to add the World Biosphere Reserves, so that, in addition to seeing what's been lost, we can see what might still be saved.