Virtually and Really Watching the Trees (grow)

    by Leslie Rule
    March 20, 2008

    The city of Shanghai is geo-tagging over 1500 registered ancient tress with the plan to use gps devices to monitor and protect the trees in ways they couldn’t before. Not unlike many cities, modernization poses enormous risks (and has exacted quite a toll) to nature and the natural. So often our built environment doesn’t take into account what has been here for so long. Shanghai’s gps monitoring allows the trees to be tracked in real time and the government to move quickly if the location of the tree changes.

    The system also enables construction companies to get location data early in the development process so that they can factor trees into the equation and thereby create protective measures before starting a project. In addition to protecting the trees, by including species, age, and height information for each tree and making the information publicly available online, the government hopes to raise awareness and engender stewardship by the citizenry, and perhaps building a more sustainable relationship between species and within the community.

    The World Wildlife Fund has started this fabulous online geo-tagging project that is a melding the real with the virtual into a nearly perfect hybrid experience.


    At the mybabytree.org website, we are rewarded with a very cute (sorry, but there is no other word that fits) animation that sheppards the visitor through the process of buying a sapling (or baby tree) to be planted in the Sebangau National Forest in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Through a very simple but elegant animation you are educated about the tree you chose (you have 3 choices), about the need for action, “the heart of Borneo’s forest area is 1 of the only 2 places on Earth where orangutans, elephants and rhinoceros still co-exist,” and about the process of buying, nurturing, and eventually planting the sapling in the forest.

    While the idea is great, the execution brilliant (JWT did the creative), the social good unassailable, what makes this unlike any online donation site is the process that connects the donor with the tree. Once the tree is planted, it is a given a number, geo-tagged with lat/long coordinates, and located in a Google Earth kmz file, which is then sent to the donor.




    Here’s the Goggle Earth file of the project.

    The Google Earth images will need to be updated to see the growth of the trees. Also, it would be very cool to see who else from around the world is planting trees. A really wonderful model is Kiva, a micro-lender supported by everyday people. For as little as $25, anyone can participate in online micro-lending. Kiva pools the small amounts and disperses the micro-loans through local agencies. Investors not only choose their region and entrepreneur, but they can see who else has donated to the same entrepreneur. The site is updated when a micro-loan payment is made. When the full amount has been paid back, investors can choose to reinvest or to pull out their funds. Additionally, online investors can leave messages, upload images, or be anonymous. It has the feel of a social networking site, but with a purpose greater than just chattering amongst ourselves.

    I bought ten saplings in Indonesia for 5.50 a piece.
    I invested in 8 micro-loans in Africa at $25 a piece.
    And my OLPC XO came today.

    Tagged: google earth gps kiva mybabytree

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