“If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”
Deforestation has long been cited as a problem, but a lack of accessible data meant that the general public had to take someone's word for the figures. As a result, its threat always seemed more abstract and nebulous than, say, climate change or rising sea levels.
Until now: Google to the rescue! The company has unveiled its Global Forest Watch, an online tool that monitors deforestation around the world in near-real time.
Screenshots of the Global Forest Watch Web App.
The app follows the release of the static Google Earth deforestation map late last year, a collaboration between the tech company, the University of Maryland, the US Geological Survey, and NASA. Since then, that group has grown to include more than 40 organizations, as well as individual users who all help contribute information, using satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to visualize the reality of the situation.
Google’s power to work with massive amounts of data means that information that would have previously taken years to asses can now be analyzed in just seconds. The result is a map that lets you see the ebb and flow of forests anywhere from a global scale right down to your own backyard. The hope is that visualizing our forests' decline could incite action and empower individuals, governments, corporations, NGOs, and business to take matters into their own hands. "So now if a tree falls in the forest," as the narrator in the promo video above says, "everyone hears it."