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Science & Tech

New Digital Map of Near-Real Time Deforestation Launched By Google and WRI

Between 2000 and 2012, the world lost 2.3 million square kilometers, or 230 million hectares, of tree cover, according to research conducted by the University of Maryland and Google. That’s equivalent to 50 soccer fields lost every minute of every day for those whole twelve years.

The countries suffering from the most tree loss include Russia, the United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Canada.

Now, a coalition of businesses, conservationists and techies are coming together to come to a solution to this massive environmental problem. The World Research Institute (WRI), partnering with Google and over 40 other business partners, recently launched the Global Forest Watch—an online map that shows deforestation in almost real time.

“Businesses, governments and communities desperately want better information about forests. Now, they have it,” according to Dr. Andrew Steer the president and CEO of WRI. “Global Forest Watch is a near-real time monitoring platform that will fundamentally change the way people and businesses manage forests. From now on, the bad guys cannot hide and the good guys will be recognized for their stewardship.”

The map is created by using the latest satellite technology, open data and crowdsourcing.

“We are honored to partner with WRI and power the Global Forest Watch platform with Google cloud technology, massive data and turbo-powered science,” says Google’s Rebecca Moore, engineering manager for Google Earth Outreach and Earth Engine. “GFW is an ambitious vision, and yet it’s both timely and achievable given WRI's knowledge of environmental science and policy, strong partnerships, and the high-performance Google cloud technology that we’re donating to this initiative.”

The free tool will be updated monthly to reflect the latest data from around the world—a more accurate map of deforestation than ever before.

“Partnerships like Global Forest Watch that bring together governments, businesses and civil society and technological innovation are the kinds of solutions we need to reduce forest loss, alleviate poverty and promote sustainable economic growth,” said Rajiv Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The businesses behind the initiative see an economic reason to care about this deforestation and support the GFW.

“Deforestation poses a material risk to businesses that rely on forest-linked crops. Exposure to that risk has the potential to undermine the future of businesses,” claims Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever.

The leading goal behind the map is that it will function as a call to action, empowering people around the globe to work against deforestation.