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UNEP and Google Earth: Mobilizing Public Support For the Environment

On July 2, 2007, Ashbindu Singh, Regional Coordinator, UNEP's Division of Early Warning & Assessment - North America, visited WRI to present "Mobilizing public support for the environment using Google Earth: The UNEP experience - why, what, how, and lessons learned. "

Singh shared his experiences using Google Earth to mobilize public support for the environment. He discussed UNEP's collaboration with Google Earth to develop One Planet, Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment. The award-winning Atlas uses Google Earth software to provide a "flying" experience around a virtual planet Earth, zooming in on environmental hotspots and comparing today's crisis zones with yesterday's areas of natural beauty. The images show retreating glaciers and melting ice in polar and mountain areas, explosive growth of cities such as Las Vegas, forest loss in the Amazon, rapid oil and gas development in Wyoming and Canada, forest fires across sub-Saharan Africa and the decline of the Aral Sea in Central Asia and Lake Chad in Africa.

He also discussed the challenges involved in working with Google to complete the project. The information printed in One Planet, Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment is presented through a series of before and after satellite images and is available to over 200 million Google Earth users worldwide. It was the first effort to incorporate time series satellite images in Google Earth, and recently won the 2006 Grand Challenges award from the International Society for Digital Earth.

Due to the success of the effort, national and international organizations are developing their own data and information for viewing in the Google Earth software, following UNEP's model.

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