Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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December 18, 2013
Striking a Passionate Chord for Nature

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

                                                                                            —Dr. Seuss

Can you guess what Conservation International (CI), Pearl Jam and Ecuador have in common? Through a partnership with CI, the award-winning rock band was able to offset the carbon footprint from its 2006 concert tour by restoring degraded tropical forests in Ecuador’s Mache-Chindul Ecological Reserve.

Since 2003, CI’s Michael Totten, senior advisor, Healthy, Sustainable Economies, has calculated the metric tons of carbon dioxide output from Pearl Jam’s world tours. Based on Totten’s calculation, the band allocates a portion of tour profits to invest in various environmental projects that serve to offset or mitigate the carbon dioxide that was released into the atmosphere.

How CI Works

Pearl Jam’s union with CI was no accident. The band’s members are profoundly passionate and savvy about the global environment (http://pearljam.com/activism/carbon-mitigation). They recognized that CI gets more bang for the buck than many green organizations. Unlike some radical environmental groups, which garner headlines but accomplish few sustainable outcomes, CI employs a solid four-part game plan to get the job done right.

Policy—CI collaborates with local, regional and national governments around the world to deal with high-priority areas of concern. This strategy has helped create inclusive, powerful coalitions with government leaders in many nations to help them overcome the many challenges faced by trying to balance conservation with their respective development goals, economic interests and political realities.

Partnerships—In addition to its governmental partnerships, CI partners with businesses, such as Walmart, Starbucks and McDonald’s, to help them establish green benchmarks and embrace environmentally sound practices. CI also recognizes there are other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) out there doing good work. Since 2001, CI has provided $90 million to 1,200 NGOs that are uniquely and strategically positioned to get conservation done—and the numbers continue to rise.

Field Work—Field programs are where CI demonstrates that economic and social development must rely on the preservation of natural ecosystems. CI’s field efforts are central to demonstrating that social and economic benefits don’t need to come at the expense of nature—rather, nature is fundamentally essential to future prosperity.

Science—CI scientists are in the field every day, monitoring environmental threats and taking action where it’s needed most and where it will do the most good. Sound science helps pinpoint places with critical natural capital so CI can identify where every dollar spent will have the maximum impact. Science is the cornerstone of everything CI does, and it relies extensively on geospatial technology to carry out its science missions.

Superlative Leadership Makes the Difference

When I first met CI President Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier 17 years ago, I instantly knew I was speaking with an extraordinary human being. Fluent in six languages, he’s as comfortable doing field work in the Amazon rainforest as he is in a Fortune 500 company board room forging an agreement. The scientific community has honored Mittermeier’s incredible conservation track record by naming six newly discovered species after him, including two lemurs.

Along with several fascinating adventure narratives, Mittermeier told me how CI recognized the usefulness of a geographic information system (GIS) early on.

“We always want to have the most up-to-date tools available,” he said. “That’s evident by what we’re trying to do with GIS.”

See Conservation International Does Nature Right to learn more about how CI is using Earth imagery and geospatial tools to carry out its mission.

—By Jeff Specht, publisher, Earth Imaging Journal

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