The Tribe of Google Earth

Google is harnessing the power of satellite imagery to help the people of Amazon.

No, not that Amazon — this one:


The San Francisco Chronicle explains how Amazon Chief Almir Surui reached out to Google for help in ending violent clashes between loggers and miners and members of the Surui tribe: 

During his visit to the Bay Area late last month, Almir, the first Surui to graduate from college, asked the folks at Google Earth for high-quality satellite imagery that would allow the tribe to monitor loggers and miners, who have no legal right to operate on the tribe’s 600,000-acre reserve about 1,600 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro.

His plea fell on receptive ears with company officials in Mountain View, who are now at work on a plan to let the Surui use Google’s technology to raise awareness of their plight by working with satellite providers to vastly improve image resolution.

"The Amazon rain forest and its indigenous peoples are disappearing rapidly, which has serious consequences both locally and globally," said Google Earth spokeswoman Megan Quinn. "This project can raise global awareness of the Surui people’s struggle to preserve their land and culture by reaching more than 200 million Google Earth users around the world."

Google Earth has already been used to track disappearing gorillas, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, and the results of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia. 

This isn’t the first convergence of high technology and the Amazon basin, of course. Last September, we wrote about Intel’s efforts to build a digital city in the Amazon; and the One Laptop Per Child initiative (supported by SES-Americom) promises to bring the power of computers and internet communications to people living in remote locations throughout the world.