Google Earth’s bird’s-eye view of the globe is not just a way to check out satellite pics of your crush’s apartment building (though we’re guilty of that one). The virtual space is being used by environmentalists, concerned citizens, and yes, eco-bloggers, to map the effects of climate change, tag renewable energy plants, and point out environmental degradations of the land. Scientists, such as Dr. Jon Blower from the University of Reading, even use Google Earth to visualize multiple scientific geo-data sets, which can lead to new conclusions.
Google (GOOG) has more recently pulled together the Global Awareness layer and Google Earth outreach, where nonprofits like the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Heritage Fund can create location-based data points to highlight and promote their respective initiatives. We like the software because it’s just fun to zoom around with, and the community of users is full of passionate propeller-head types who geek out over the location-based programming language KML. To get a feeling for the fanbase, read GoogleEarthHacks.com.
Here’s a Google Earth tour of our favorite eco-maps. Remember: you have to download the software and either cut-n-paste the coordinates into the search box or click through the link to go to the download. It’s a little clunky, but check it out:
1). Solar Power Plant Tour:
Nevada Solar One (lat=35.8082941835, long=-114.9761901), is a 300-acre, 64-megawatt solar power plant in Boulder City, Nev. Also try tracking down the nine solar plants that make up the Solar Energy Generating System in Mojave Desert towns like Harper Lake (lat=35.0316516305, long=-117.346956787) and Kramer Junction (lat=35.0145704177, long=-117.556425518). There’s plenty of more to add in.
2). Appalachian Mountain Top Removal:
Go to the “Layers” section in Google Earth and head to the “Global awareness layer” — it’s the 8th one (last layer) displayed. Seven grassroots organizations in Appalachia created this Google Earth map to help end the devastation of their mountains and communities caused by mountaintop removal coal mining.
3). Scottish Wind Farms: check it out here
Holy Scotland windmills. More info about proposed, in-use and rejected wind power options in the UK country than you could ever want and/or need. Search Google Earth Hacks for wind and check out the many other wind farms out there.
4). The World’s Crude Oil Refineries: check it out here
Not much detailed info about each site, but gives you a real sense of the sheer massive scale of the oil refinery business and how the sites are spread out geographically across the globe.
5). Dirty Coal Mines and Plants: check it out here
Keep track of the mines and plants of the dirtiest, cheapest and most widely-used source of power – coal. This map is just for North Dakota, but if we can overlay one for all the coal plants and mines (anyone seen one?) in the U.S., and heck why not internationally, then we can meet the problem head on with a little grassroots mapping.