Google, FAO aim to usher in new era of environmental literacy

GoogleThe UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Google are working together to make high-resolution satellite data an everyday tool in managing the world’s natural resources.

According to a statement issued by FAO on Friday, this development is changing the way the world goes about pursuing sustainable development.

It said that the UN Director-General José da Silva and Rebecca Moore, Engineering Manager at Google Earth Outreach & Earth Engine, hailed the intensification of the recently established partnership.

It said that the collaboration already allows resource managers and researchers in many countries to gauge changing land uses of individual field,-sized plots seen by eye-in-the-sky satellites.

The method offers a quantum leap towards improved abilities to assess a landscape’s carbon storage capacity or plan a nation’s approach to greenhouse gas emissions.

“For example, easily accessible and rapidly-updated remote sensing data enables a shift in forest management from inventory reports to taking the almost real-time pulse of forests`.

“Thus opening a host of new policy prospects and further opening the doors of scientific perception.

“FAO and Google are “ushering in an unprecedented level of environmental literacy,” said da Silva.

The statement said that the initial focus was the forestry sector, where national experts could, after a short training, use FAO software and Google’s accessible geospatial data archives to conduct in a few hours mapping and classification exercises that used to take weeks or months.

“Opportunities for future collaboration are vast, and may lead to innovation in a range of issues from dietary nutrition and pest control to water management and climate change.

“The more people involved, the better it works.

“Understanding the effects of climate change, planning the improvements in the efficiency of production and distribution of food, and monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals require more frequent and precise data on the environment and its changes.”

The Google boss said that such partnerships help to bring their products into actual use.

According to Moore, the partnership with FAO is a way we can each bring our unique strengths to make a change for future generations.

She said that the combination in which Google makes data and processing power easily accessible while FAO devises ways to extract useful information had already moved into innovative territory.

FAO’s Locust Control Unit has used Earth Engine to improve forecasts and control of desert locust outbreaks, the statement noted.

Satellites cannot detect the dreaded insects themselves but can accelerate identification of potential breeding areas and make ground interventions more effective, it added.

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