Google Earth goes to the Amazon

The Tumbira community in the Rio Negro Sustainable Development Reserve. (Photo from Google.)

Members of the Brazilian and U.S. Google Street View and Google Earth Outreach teams have begun capturing images of the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers in northwest Brazil, using Google’s Street View technology. According to Google’s official blog:

In partnership with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS), the local nonprofit conservation organization that invited us to the area, we’re training some of FAS’s representatives on the imagery collection process and leaving some of our equipment behind for them to continue the work. By teaching locals how to operate these tools, they can continue sharing their points of view, culture and ways of life with audiences across the globe.

The Google and FAS teams are using Google’s Street View trike (a specially designed off-road tricycle fitted with a tripod, with which one can shoot in places not accessible by car) to get images of waterways, river villages, surrounding forests and the places “where civilization meets the rainforest.” The Street View trike “will also be used to give you a sense of what it’s like to live and work in places such as an Amazonian community center and school.”

According to its website, the FAS, the organization that invited Google to visually map the region, is a public-private, independent NGO “of public interest and without political party connections. It was founded in December 2007 by the Amazonas State Government and the Bradesco Bank” with the following purpose:

The Amazonas Sustainable Foundation mission is to promote the sustainable involvement, environmental conservation and life quality improvement for the resident communities and users of the Amazonas State Conservation Units.

The actions are directed to reduce deforestation and poverty eradication; social organization support; improvement of social indicators and income generation based on sustainable activities.

The FAS’s tagline is: “Making the forest worth more standing than cut”–not only a worthy but a crucial goal, in my book. (See HW Guest Artist Lee Clockman’s elegiac photo essay of Amazon rainforest destruction here.) But I do wonder how this techno-incursion for Worldwide Web consumption will impact the cultures of the Amazon peoples. At least Google Earth was invited in by a local NGO.

For more information from the Google blog, including a Google Earth map of the Amazon area under discussion, click here. For a BBC video report on the project, click here.


About Diana Rico

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