Google launches visual maps to help save the world’s trees

medium_233523196For all of its faults there’s no denying that Google likes to give a little bit back now and again, particularly in the form of humanitarian work. Now, it’s just begun a new effort to help us all keep an unflinching eye on the rampant deforestation in the world.

Google has just launched a new website that aims to bring awareness to the issue of global deforestation, letting users see just how much of the world’s trees have been cut down since the year 2000. To do so, it’s teaming up with the World Resources Institute and other organization to create Global Forest Watch, a visual map that lets users chart deforestation around the world.

The deforestation data on Global Forest Watch dates back to 2000, and features dozens of customization options allowing users to analyze different time periods, or focus on specific geographic locations to see how much of Brazil’s Amazon rain forest has been hacked down since 2000. However, the most valuable feature is that the map will be continually updated as each month progresses, allowing users to track “changes in forest cover in near-real-time”.

“Now that we have the ability to peer into forests, a number of telling stories are beginning to emerge,” notes the Google Maps blog.

“According to data from the University of Maryland and Google, the world lost more than 500 million acres of forest between 2000 and 2012. That’s the equivalent of losing 50 soccer fields’ worth of forests every minute of every day for the past 13 years!”

As well as tracking deforestation, users can also look at how many trees have been replanted around the world – sadly, not too many – whilst it’s possible to see what kinds of industries are doing the most damage.

Global Forest Watch

This isn’t the first kind of data visualization Google has come up with – in fact it’s famous for them – but it could be the first one to have a lasting impact on the world’s environment. Head to Global Forest Watch if you want to check it out, but be warned that it paints a pretty depressing picture of where the world’s headed if something isn’t done!

Maybe, just maybe, Google’s attention might help to change things for the better.

photo credit: crustmania via photopin cc