Friday, January 25, 2019

Mapping for a Better Environmental Future

Bioneers Pulse – updates from the Bioneers Community
Greetings fellow Bioneers! 
At a time when advances in digital capacity by gigantic technology firms often feel intrusive and driven by consumerism, it can be easy to dismiss or overlook what the potential impact could be if some of these tools were leveraged for good. But it’s with the incredibly advanced framework of those tools that visionary thought leaders like Google Earth’s Rebecca Moore are able to see what’s happening to our planet in real time. That means witnessing climate change with a bird’s-eye view and seeing how it affects plant, animal, and human life around the world. In this week’s newsletter, we hear from Moore on the potential mapping technology has for conservation of ecosystems and how Indigenous communities can benefit from technology. We also see a moving performance from Oakland, CA, based Thrive Choir, a group with a strong focus on social transformation.

The Big Question: Conserve and Protect

The Amazon Rainforest is without a doubt one of the most important ecosystems on Earth. Not only is it incredibly biodiverse, but thanks to its sheer size and density, it also produces 20 percent of the oxygen humans breathe and captures 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Were it to disappear, the effects would be devastating around the world, but many Indigenous Amazonian tribes are fighting to protect the area from further destruction at the hands of illegal ranchers, miners and loggers—and they've embraced technology to do so. What is the name of the tribe that initiated a collaboration with Google Earth to map and monitor Indigenous lands in the Amazon? (Read to the bottom of the email to find the answer, and read the rest of the email to find out more about efforts to understand and preserve the environment.)

Wise Words

“Taking that extra ten seconds to check your bias can save a life. No one is calling you racist for having unconscious bias from the things you were taught by your friends and family and what you see in the news. But if you don't make that effort to evaluate whether your instincts are based in reality, then you become complicit to a racist criminal justice system that unfairly targets people of color.”

—Megan Izen writing for on Questions for White people to ask themselves before dialing 911. Hear from Rinku Sen on environmentalism and racial justice in this 2015 Bioneers keynote address.

Video to Watch: Oakland’s Thrive Choir

The Thrive Choir is an Oakland-based singing group affiliated with Thrive East Bay, a purpose-driven community focused on personal and social transformation. The choir is composed of a diverse group of vocalists, artists, activists, educators, healers, and community organizers directed by musicians Austin Willacy and Kyle Lemle. Here, watch their closing performance from the 2018 Bioneers Conference.

This Week on Bioneers Radio & Podcast

Oakland, California, has had the reputation of being one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Then the Restorative Justice movement started boldly showing how quickly that reputation can be turned around by arresting the cycle of youth violence and incarceration early: in schools and juvenile justice policies.
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Person to Know: Rebecca Moore

Google Earth Outreach founder and visionary engineer Rebecca Moore says the signs are all around us, telling us that our life-support systems are in critical condition. Only recently has it become possible to monitor the health of Earth’s life-sustaining resources, and Moore is showing how cutting-edge science and powerful cloud computing technology allow us to put this data into the hands of those who can take action. In her 2018 Bioneer Conference keynote address, she discusses how mapping technology helps us achieve conservation and social missions.
There’s all this incredible data being captured while we’re sitting here. The problem is it’s typically going onto tapes and stored in a vault somewhere in a government archive. The way I think about it is, ‘How can we liberate that, bring that online, and make it available to scientists and anyone who wants to turn those pixels into knowledge?’
With Google Earth Engine, we spent three years bringing all that historic data online. We’re also bringing the new data online as it’s being collected, co-located with massive computing to derive the insights that we need to understand what’s changing and what kind of solutions are possible. So once that was built that, we wondered what it would look like if we stitched together a global, panable, zoomable planetary timelapse. An animated video of the planet.
It was fascinating. We could see Las Vegas growing while Lake Mead shrunk. Hmm…that’s interesting, isn’t it? We could see deforestation in Bolivia, which would be artistically beautiful if it weren’t sad. We could see the Alberta tar sands.
But there are beautiful things too, geologic features like the shifting sands of Cape Cod beaches.
To build that timelapse, we had to analyze five million satellite images. It was three quadrillion pixels. We ran it on 66,000 computers in parallel. We had it in a couple days. On a single computer, it would have taken 300 years. Read more here.

What We’re Tracking:

  • Find inspiration in these videos of five social justice leaders, movers and shakers who have spoken from the Bioneers stage and used their voices to fight for meaningful change over the past three decades. (via Bioneers)
  • Just after assuming the presidency earlier this month, right-wing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro signed responsibility of Indigenous lands over to the ministry of agriculture, which has ties to the agribusiness lobby. (Olivia Rosane via EcoWatch)
  • Bioneers co-founder Nina Simons shares a poem celebrating women from her new book, Nature, Culture and the Sacred. (Nina Simons via Bioneers)
  • The California Environmental Literacy Initiative aims to increase students’ understanding of their role in the natural world and make environmental literacy prior to graduation a priority. (Amanda Machado via Bay Nature)

The Big Question, Answered: Conserve and Protect

One of the most technologically savvy Indigenous groups in the Amazon, the Surui tribe is using technology and its unique connections to further efforts to protect their lands and the wider rainforest from further destruction. Almir Narayamoga Surui, a chief of one of four Paiter-Surui tribes, sought out a partnership with Google Earth’s Rebecca Moore to put Google Earth’s satellite imaging capabilities to work monitoring deforestation. Almir’s efforts have led Google Earth to work with 56 additional Amazonian tribes to track their lands via satellite. Find out more about Almir’s efforts, the Surui’s mission, and how technology can play a role in environmental activism at c|net.

Listen to this episode of Bioneers Radio to learn more about Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui and how he's working with Rebecca Moore to map Indigenous lands in the Amazon.
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