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GREEN Eyes in the Sky: Desktop satellite tools are changing the way environmentalists work

Here's a link to a logging flyover:

GREEN Eyes in the Sky
Desktop satellite tools are changing the way environmentalists work

- Gregory Dicum, Special to SF Gate gregory (at)
Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Imagine yourself in outer space, gazing at the blue and green sphere that is our home. Now zoom in, fast, diving toward continents and oceans. Soon rivers and cities emerge, then individual houses, then cars. Zoom closer -- there's a camel in the desert, and you can even zoom right to its eyelashes.

This is Google Earth, the flagship of the latest generation of desktop tools (NASA's WorldWind is another great tool) that is putting sophisticated and comprehensive models of the planet in the hands of anybody with a PC. When it came out last June, the free Google Earth application immediately became an online sensation, with geo-enthusiasts everywhere using the program to tour the world virtually, and then posting images and movies on the Web.

But for environmentalists, Google Earth has turned out to be much more than another gee-whiz software development. Instead, it's starting to look like a killer app that could change the power balance between grassroots environmentalists and their adversaries.

"Google Earth enabled us to give people a chance to visit the Arctic from their desks," says Eric Antebi, national press secretary for the Sierra Club. As part of the struggle to keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge free of oil wells, the Sierra Club set up a Google Earth annotation (linked to from here) so users can explore the region. "People could fly around Northern Alaska and see this landscape -- they could get out there and see why this place is worth protecting."


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