Over 2 million square kilometers of tree cover was lost between 2000 and 2012. But what does that statistic even look like? The general public has never had an easy view of the big picture — until now.
Google has joined forces with the World Resources Institute (and 40 other organizations), to produce an online map that zeroes in on worldwide deforestation. Global Forest Watch is still in beta, but already it shows stunning, near real-time detail on the give and take of planting trees versus logging them. A delicate balance to be sure, and one that Global Forest Watch hopes to protect. Using satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing, the website aims to call out abusers of the resource system.
The interactive map contains an unprecedented wealth of data, and the accessibility of that information has lead to high hopes for accountability among those involved in the forestry industry. President and CEO of WRI, Dr. Andrew Steer comments, “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 website presents open data from various, and customizable, time periods. The controllable factors (forest change, forest use, etc.) give an easy-to-navigate picture of the world’s current use of our forests.
Global Forest Watch was born as a response to a survey out of the University of Maryland and Google, which found that 50 soccer fields of forest were lost across the globe every minute of every day for 12 years. Canada, as well as the United States, Brazil, and Russia were among the top nations to bear the burden of that loss.