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Indians Use Google Earth and GPS To Protect Amazon 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the captain-eplanet dept.
Damien1972 writes "Deep in the most remote jungles of South America, Amazon Indians are using Google Earth, GPS, and other technologies to protect their fast-dwindling home. Tribes in Suriname, Brazil, and Colombia are combining their traditional knowledge of the rainforest with Western technology to conserve forests and maintain ties to their history and cultural traditions. Indians use Google Earth to remotely monitor their lands by checking for signs of miners and GPS to map their lands. "Google Earth is used primarily for vigilance," says Vasco van Roosmalen, program director of a nonprofit involved in the project."
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Indians Use Google Earth and GPS To Protect Amazon

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:05PM (#16861972) Homepage Journal
    The combination of technology and private property looks like the best way to ensure conservation. Make sure the land in question belongs to somebody, so they have an incentive to take care of it; and give them the tech tools to do so. They will do it without taxing others. No EPA budget busting, no snail darter lawsuits, no taking of private property. About the only taxpayer expenses are the maintenance of the cops and judicial system to handle civil or criminal complaints that the tribe may have - and that is mostly a sunk cost anyway.

    Sorry to risk starting a political debate ( but after all this is slashdot, so that is effectively a sunk cost too. )
    • by KillerCow (213458) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:35PM (#16862404)
      The combination of technology and private property looks like the best way to ensure conservation. Make sure the land in question belongs to somebody, so they have an incentive to take care of it


      The Tragedy of the Commons [wikipedia.org] defeats this argument. If I'm the private owner, why should I spend my money to preserve it when I could make money be selling the land to a clear-cutter? Yes, there's less rain-forest now, but that cost is paid by society, not by me. I personally get net ahead by abusing my piece of the commons.

      Individuals do what is best for themselves individually. Collectives can do what is best for the collective. The only way to protect a commons is through government, because it represents the collective of the people.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)
        The Tragedy of the Commons defeats this argument. If I'm the private owner, why should I spend my money to preserve it when I could make money be selling the land to a clear-cutter?

        1) Because, as the owner of the land with a vested interest in the land, it is more valuable to you forested (an ongoing resource) than clear-cut (a one-time use). Sure there will be plenty of times when the owner decideds that partial clear-cutting is his ownly choice due to short-term economic problems. But, private ownershi
        • by saforrest (184929)
          You are trying to use the tragedy of the commons to try to justify the commons (communal ownership of the forest) as the best economic model. Very ironic.

          Thats not really what he/she was doing. Communal ownership in the classical sense would mean that the private corporations doing the clearcutting would share the forest with the Indians, just as the village commons in the old economic parable was owned by everybody.

          The "communalism" being proposed is sole communal ownership by the people living on the lan
        • This article is de facto proof that private ownership of the forest by those with a vested interest in the forest (the native indians) will work.

          Ah but the areas of forests this article mentions aren't private property, they are communally owned. The Amerindian tribes as a whole get title any land they gain rights to, itn't not sliced and diced into parcels to be handed to individuals. Now I'm not saying private property ownership interests won't encourage conservation, it can help, but it doesn't appl

      • Governments are the collective will of the people? What the hell have you been smoking?

        Dictatorships are the collective will of one person. But they're still a government.
        Oligopolies, either through social or economic classism are the collective will of those in power. But they're still a government.
        Democracies are the collective will of the majority (see tyranny of the majority). If you're in the minority, your will isn't represented. Tough luck.

        And, even if the government is the collective will of th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by nwbvt (768631)
        No, the tragedy of the commons applies when there is no property, and everything is part of the commons. Hence the name, tragedy of the commons. For instance, one could argue that with regard to the atmosphere. We cannot divide the atmosphere up into private lots, and there is no incentive to keep any of it clean.
      • by kabocox (199019)
        The combination of technology and private property looks like the best way to ensure conservation. Make sure the land in question belongs to somebody, so they have an incentive to take care of it

        The Tragedy of the Commons defeats this argument. If I'm the private owner, why should I spend my money to preserve it when I could make money be selling the land to a clear-cutter? Yes, there's less rain-forest now, but that cost is paid by society, not by me. I personally get net ahead by abusing my piece of the c
    • by griffjon (14945)
      I mostly agree, but many indigenous communities don't recognize land rights with a Western mentality; communal lands with no private ownership, for example. This is not due to a lack of understanding of private lands, which is why they lobby their government for land rights, but a cultural choice.

      It can still work, just not as simply.
    • They don't need computers! They need clean water and food and medical care! We shouldn't be wasting money on something like this!!

      ... wait, this isn't a OLPC debate? And it clearly shows an example of how "poor" people from a third world country can use computers to their benefit and voluntarily choose to do so? I'm going to withdraw from this debate before i damage the credibility of my claims any further.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:05PM (#16861974)
    Those maps are out of date, it'll be useless to find new operations.
    • This is not a troll! Whoever modded this should be meta-moderated out of existence!

      I was going to say the same thing. When I pull up my house on Google Earth, it shows an empty lot where my house has been for at least three years. Yeah, these Indians may find a mine, but by the time they get there, all the miners would have left and the forest would have retaken the land.

      I mean, it's not like you can go outside, wave at the sky and find yourself on GoogleEarth!

    • I covered the roof of my garage with a white latex-type material a few years ago, and Google Earth still shows my old black garage, with a silver Honda next to it that I traded in a long time ago.

      How can this tool "keep track" of anything in terms of the encroachment of miners (for example)?

      I remember when Google Earth first came out, I kept insisting that my wife run out in the back yard and wave to me. Although she's a very smart mathematician, it's pretty easy to pull her leg, so she indeed went outside
    • They have satellites up there which are dedicated to monitoring the amazon, as well as radar stations on the ground. So they're using google earth for mapping, not for imaging, I would infer. I know that they have active satellites in orbit currently because my father worked on the project [thinkquest.org] that put them there. I'm rather puzzled though by this story which does not mention either the company my father works for nor the name of the project.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        Those maps are out of date, it'll be useless to find new operations.

        They have satellites up there which are dedicated to monitoring the amazon, as well as radar stations on the ground. So they're using google earth for mapping, not for imaging, I would infer.

        TFA directly states that they are obtaining evidence from Google Earth of the existence of the mines and other incursions - I.E. for imaging, not mapping.

        I know that they have active satellites in orbit currently because my father worked on t

      • Wikipedia article on the system (SIVAM): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistema_de_Vigil%C3% A 2ncia_da_Amaz%C3%B4nia [wikipedia.org]

        The system utilizes a mixture of fixed and mobile ground radar, as well as airborne surveillance using the Embraer ERJ 145. The combined platform is called the R-99. The U.S. military contractor Raytheon, the Brazilian firm ATECH, and Embraer won the tender to build the SIVAM system. Today, the project has delivered its equipment to the government, creating the SIPAM (Amazonian Protection System

    • Mining is something that takes time. You don't just move in overnight, mine, and leave in the morning. I guess they're monitoring a vast expanse of land, so even a months old picture is useful.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:06PM (#16861990) Homepage Journal
    I don't think they outsourced it to India.
    • Amazon probably outsources a lot of its call-center related jobs to India...so I'm not surprised the Indians are doing whatever they can to protect Amazon in order to keep as many jobs as possible.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by minus_273 (174041)
      yeah, native americans in BRAZIL.
      • by redfieldp (549286) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:44PM (#16862488)
        Um, yes, that would be Brazil in South AMERICA. Hence, Native AMERICANS.
        • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:54PM (#16862610) Homepage Journal
          you'll have to excuse some posters. They seem to think America only means the USA, when it refers to two continents.

          Just like India is a subcontinent just south of Asia.
          • The term American originally referred to the first nation in North or South America that was non-aboriginal. That nation of course is formed by the United States of America. Hence why people in Canada, for example, aren't called "Americans".
            • The term American originally referred to the first nation in North or South America that was non-aboriginal. That nation of course is formed by the United States of America.

              What a load of Bullshit. Next time, could you do you an iota of research before posting your facts?

              The continents were named after Amerigo Vespucci [about.com] who first landed at the mouth of the Amazon in 1499 and was the first explorer to realize that he was not in India but rather a new place.
              • by minus_273 (174041)
                "The continents were named after Amerigo Vespucci who first landed at the mouth of the Amazon in 1499 and was the first explorer to realize that he was not in India but rather a new place"

                right and how is that related to the term american? Your post has nothing to do with what the parent wrote. For example i can reply.

                Sir Franceis Drake was a Brit! sure it is true but it has nothing to do with your post.
                • You respond to a post in which I castigate someone for not doing an iota of research with a similar post completely void of research. Ironic.

                  Read the the link [about.com] dumbass.

                  In honor of Vespucci's discovery of the new forth portion of the world, Waldseemuller printed a wood block map (called "Carta Mariana") with the name "America" spread across the southern continent of the New World.

              • Yes, the continents were named after Amerigo Vespucci.

                Can you name a non-aboriginal nation that was founded in North or South America before the United States in 1776? Didn't think so.

                Europeans started referring to these people as not "Brits", "Spaniards", or "Frenchmen", but as Americans. Hence why people in other independent states on those continents aren't referred to as such.

                From Wikipedia: The word can be used as both a noun and an adjective. In adjectival use, it is generally understood to mean

                • Can you name a non-aboriginal nation that was founded in North or South America before the United States in 1776? Didn't think so.

                  Yes I can, Vineland [eyewitnesstohistory.com] which is now called Nova Scotia [online-literature.com].

                  Falcon
                • Had Mexico or Quebec been the first region to throw off it's colonial power, those people would likely be referred to as "Americans" on the international stage.

                  Baloney.

                  It's not the Canadian Republic of America, nor is it the United Mexican States of America. The reason citizens of the USA are commonly referred to as American is because the 'A' in USA stands for America. It is shorthand. But it is hardly uniquely restricted to the USA.

                  Nation of origin and citizenship are not the only criteria for the nami
            • people in Canada, for example, aren't called "Americans".

              Frequently they'er called "North Americans" though I like Canucks [canucksandwannabes.com].

              Falcon
    • !offtopic (Score:3, Informative)

      by winomonkey (983062)
      Hey mods...the above post is not off topic, it is merely pointing out that articles, blurbs, and summaries should make the distinction that Indians (ala India) are not the same as Native Americans. Hundreds of years after the initial confusion and we are still getting this stuff wrong. Indians are not native to the Amazon.

      Perhaps you meant some of these indigeneous peoples from Brazil:
      * Ache
      * Aconã
      * Aimoré (Bo
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was puzzled as to why a bunch of people in South Asia wanted to protect something in South America. :)
  • by eneville (745111)
    Ohhhh! /American/ Indians!
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      > Ohhhh! /American/ Indians!

      You mean, like amazon.br?

      • by Rix (54095)
        You do know that the US is not America, right?
        • you do know... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Oo.et.oO (6530) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @09:00PM (#16862658)
          that indians are FROM INDIA, right?

          is this supposed to be like a queer calling a queer a queer?
          • by houghi (78078)
            Reminds me of a guy whas from Sierra Leone was called an African-American because of his colour, just as the guy who had three grand parents that came from Scandinavia.
          • by Rix (54095)
            The /. editors don't seem to. They're talking about Native Brazilians, from what I gather.
        • Take your cheese-eating, liberal lies elsewhere!

          We know you dirty liberals hate America, but we also know that you love the rain-forest, Che Guevara, latino prostitues, and Mexican marijuana. You even seem to like the Canadians fer chrissakes! Ergo, America = The US. It's simple logic!

          • by Rix (54095)
            Why would I want Mexican marijuana when I've got all the Canadian marijuana I want up here? ;)

            Ergo, The US = poppie. Or something.
  • weird, why doesn't Amazon just use their lawyers?
    • weird, why doesn't Amazon just use their lawyers?

      They're busy fighting for the spaceport in Texas.

      That or to keep the Sonics here in Seattle.
  • It is in everyone's best interests that we don't destroy more of the tropical rainforests to make way for short-term profits such as gold. The innovative use of technology with tribes seen to be primitive is a good example of how technology can be used as a useful tool.

    However the article doesn't mention why these illegal logging/mining operations are going on (other than the profit motive). Perhaps the Brazilian government (as well as other South American governments) could put money into deterring these t
    • by gustgr (695173) <rondina@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:27PM (#16862304) Homepage
      While mining is a huge problem in South America's tropical forests, there is also the deforestation problem, both for the value of the wood itself and for cleaning the soil in order to expand the agriculture. The Brazilian government, as I can see it as a Brazilian myself, isn't doing nothing at all to prevent this. In fact, one of the biggest producers of soy in Brazil is also governor of Mato Grosso (a state in which there is a reasonable part of the Amazon forest). His farms are located both in Mato Grosso and in Amazonas (the state where the Amazon forest has its greatest coverage). There are a lot of farmers like him, they take down the trees, sell the woods and then plant soy on the cleaned area.

      Brazilian government is actually proud to be in the head at a time when Brazil is exporting soy (and others commodities) as hell. Brazil is not the only guilt though. The buyers (mainly from Europe) should reject soy that was planted on former forest's territory, cattle (meat) created on former forest's territory, etc.
      • Everything was once forest.
      • Brazilian government is actually proud to be in the head at a time when Brazil is exporting soy (and others commodities) as hell. Brazil is not the only guilt though. The buyers (mainly from Europe) should reject soy that was planted on former forest's territory, cattle (meat) created on former forest's territory, etc.

        I thought Lula was going to stop stuff like this, clear cutting and burning the forest to grow crops on. I wonder why farmers haven't learned by now that most of the nutrients are in the t

  • Bah (Score:1, Funny)

    But I always thought Amazon.com was bad. Why would anyone want to conserve it?

    Oh... nevermind.

    :-P
  • by Mikachu (972457) <jjburke.hunter@cuny@edu> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:16PM (#16862146) Homepage
    Reminds me of a certain bash.org quote... [bash.org]

    <Rebbel> Man Google Earth is awesome
    <Android18> Why?
    <Rebbel> Im looking at my house
    <Rebbel> brb, pizzas here
    <BFMV> Now thats what i call technology
  • old data? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by collinong (529255)
    since google map and earth data is not at all real time, wouldn't it be hard for them to use these tools to find new encroachments? a forest or jungle could be cut down in the year or two it takes for google to get new sat images up.
    • by quixote9 (999874)
      Yeah. That was my first thought, too. I'm in Southern California, and the frame with my house in it is over two years old. I kind of like that as far as my street is concerned (reminds me of what was there before a bunch of new construction), but it does make Google Earth a blunt tool for tracking clearcutting. Unless they update the Amazon much more often?
    • by sasdrtx (914842)
      Hahahahahahahahaha... they'll be surprised when they see our new clear-cut start, and then drive out there and find nothin' but dirt for 10,000 miles!
  • by alexhard (778254) <alexhard@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:24PM (#16862250) Homepage
    There's a place called the rainforest; it truly sucks ass. Let's knock it all down and get rid of it fast. You say, "Save the rainforest," but what do you know? You've never been to the rainforest before.
  • by xPsi (851544) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:25PM (#16862260)
    Initially, I thought that their exercise was futile because Google Earth doesn't not have real time images and it is impossible (at a glance, although sometimes you can tell with some detective work) to know when various pictures were taken (e.g. see the Google Earth FAQ [google.com]). But, it turns out that the group working in the Amazon actively makes requests to Google to update certain images faster so they can legitimately monitor various regions. e.g. from TFA:
    ""When Google Earth updated these images earlier this year with higher resolution versions, we could find nearly all the disturbances in the forest....We offered the Google Earth team a list of coordinates where it would be helpful to have sharper images. We also discussed the possibility of finding ways to include the Indians' nonproprietary data, as a layer with Indian names, on Google Earth."
    • The weird thing is that as a result, there are super-up-to-date pix of remote parts of the rainforest in Google Earth, but some more densely populated regions have old pictures.
      For example, I live in São Paulo, easily the largest and most important city in Latin America and in the Southern Hemisphere. For people who know US cities, here are some references: try and imagine a city that occupies a significantly larger area than Los Angeles, but has a density of buildings like Manhattan. It's just ridi
  • by Dyeane (1011019)
    Am I the only one that went, "Amazon.com? Huh?"
  • I doubt scanning GE provides much more than warm fuzzy feeling to the scanners - as the data is routinely anwhere from 1-5 years (or more) out of date. The article itself is little more than a fuzzy headed puff piece.
    • by Goaway (82658)
      It's a good thing you pointed this out, because I am sure none of the people who do this have realized this yet. They're just sitting around looking at the maps without ever noticing that they don't update and are out of date! You will truly be heralded as a hero for this revelation.
  • That's the great thing about Google Earth - it's a poor man's satellite recon.

    If I were fighting some brush war on a shoestring budget, you can bet I'd be using Google Earth to figure out where my opponent's weaknesses are. Old intelligence is way better than no intelligence.

    • Old intelligence is way better than no intelligence.

      Bollocks. Ask Rumsfeld about the fine distinctions of military intelligence - he's got time on his hands now. 'No Intelligence' puts you in the position of an Known Unknown, which you can account for and you can be careful about. 'Old Intelligence' is an Unknown Unknown. You don't know where the opponent's weaknesses are but you THINK YOU DO. That's lethal. Especially when your opponent might know you're using Google Earth, and can then look at the same

  • by meringuoid (568297) on Wednesday November 15, 2006 @08:33PM (#16862372)
    I mean, I got the mental image of a bunch of guys in Bombay using Google Earth to protect an online bookstore...
  • Indians live in that subcontinent over near the Asia. Various Native and Indengious people live in South America.

    And you wonder why Americans are called fat lazy and stupid.
    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      Indians live in that subcontinent over near the Asia. Various Native and Indengious people live in South America.


      And everyone knows Amazon is located in Seattle, though they do have Customer Service centers in
      North Dakota, West Virginia, and India.
    • by Smurf (7981)
      Although you are right, it so happens that in English (and in practically all European languages for that matter), Indian also refers to American Natives (American as in from any of the Americas). Yes, it's due to a mistake made over 500 years ago, but it's officially in the language, look it up in a dictionary.

      Here you have one:
      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indian [reference.com]

      We may not like the misuse of terms like Indian and American, but unfortunately we will have to live with them.
    • by StikyPad (445176)
      As a US citizen living overseas, I had similar confusion when reading the title.

      Nonetheless, the term "indians" is commonly used to refer to indigenous Americans in the US. Whether it's technically right or wrong has no bearing on the word's connotation. Fries do not at all resemble any form of something that has been chipped, yet the English still call them chips. It's not wrong, it just different.

      Get over it.
      • I'm sorry, but that's utter BS. Have to be blunt here, but the fact that you seem to be unable to differentiate between different dialectal usage for a certain food-item, and an incorrect term for a people only shows your cultural insensitivity. This isn't about discussing the different synonyms for a certain word in the lexicon, it is about calling someone by the name they identify with for historical and cultural reasons.

        • by StikyPad (445176)
          Better tell the Dictionary [reference.com] then.

          It's only incorrect from two prespectives:

          1) The Americas aren't, as believed by Columbus, east India. That doesn't change the fact that the term caught on, just like "chips" caught on in England, or any other regional dialectal examples you care to think of.
          2) Its primary definition is different in non-American English. That doesn't change the fact that the original poster was, apparently, American, just like the poster who wrote about "Marks & Sparks" yesterday was
        • Have to be blunt here, but the fact that you seem to be unable to differentiate between different dialectal usage for a certain food-item, and an incorrect term for a people only shows your cultural insensitivity.

          Actually it depends on who you talk to as to what the indigenous peoples of the Americas like to be called. Me, I'm part Native American Indian, which is what I usually use though I also use Human Being. However some use the tribal name such as "Cherokee", some "Indian", and some "NDN".

          Falc

    • Indians live in that subcontinent over near the Asia. Various Native and Indengious people live in South America.

      And you wonder why Americans are called fat lazy and stupid.

      Yes, let's answer cultural insensitivity with more and worse cultural insensitivity. Surely that will solve the problem. And, no, I don't really care if you do live in the United States (America refers to two continents) that doesn't give you the right to call the whole populace anything.

    • Various Native and indigenous people live in South America.

      If you really want to get picky, "native" and "indigenous" people live in South America, North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. Those words just mean: having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment [m-w.com]

    • by Vreejack (68778)
      The title had me confused as well. The use if the term "Indian" to describe the aboriginal peoples of the Americas is a practice that should have died out 400 years ago with Columbus. It managed to persist for so long because it was rarely confusing, but given that India is the most populous democracy in the world and has a dynamic, growing economy then I am beginning to consider recommending corporal punishment for repeat "India" offenders. I don't think there are even any aboriginal Americans who like
      • by dvdeug (5033)
        I don't think there are even any aboriginal Americans who like being called "Indians," so it is insensitive as well as ignorant.

        From what I've read, most aboriginal Americans, at least in the US, use the word Indians to describe themselves. Not to mention that they're a large enough group that it would be absurd to expect unanimity among them.
      • I don't think there are even any aboriginal Americans who like being called "Indians," so it is insensitive as well as ignorant.

        I'm one that prefers "Native American Indian", or Human Being. Some I know like to use the name of their tribe, like "Cherokee", or "Sioux" where I live now, but some use "Indian". Some even use "NDN".

        Falcon
        • NDN?
          Non-denominational nationalist?
          They are patriotic to no country in particular.

          Do you think of native South Americans as Indians as well?
          For some reason it just seems weird to me.
          • Do you think of native South Americans as Indians as well?
            For some reason it just seems weird to me.

            Yes I do, I also think of them as U'wa, Yanomamo (both in Colombia), and other tribes.

            Falcon
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      Indians live in that subcontinent over near the Asia. Various Native and Indengious people live in South America.

      Aboriginal, Indigenous, or Native people also live in India, such as the Hmar [hmar.net], Arunachal Pradesh [rediff.com], Boro [geocities.com], and many others.

      Falcon
  • Old images (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Dan East (318230)
    The Google Earth images of my town (population ~10,000 in Virginia, USA) are old - at least 5 years old. Not to mention really crappy low-res (I resort to terraserver's USGS black and white images for our area, because at least they are detailed).

    So unless they only need to sample say twice a decade, I don't see how this could be useful for tracking really new encroachments.

    Dan East
  • "Tribes in Suriname, Brazil, and Colombia are combining their traditional knowledge of the rainforest with Western technology..."

    Since they're in the Americas, does that mean they're using GPS units made in Asia?

  • If we could make solar collection (for DC) and WiFi APs biodegradable, tribes might have even better security. Maybe their ancestors left the seeds for them growing somewhere in that cornucopia...

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