Recently, I came across a news article about drones and the Amazon. There was nothing unusual about this. When one thinks of drones, Amazon often comes to mind. Not only is this online marketplace one of the best places to buy drones, the tech giant has been one of the pioneers of drone technology and is one of the first companies with plans to use a fleet of drones for delivery of goods bought on their platform.
The surprise came when I discovered that this was a different Amazon. Thousands of miles away, in a place usually devoid of technology, drones are changing the game for another Amazon, the actual Amazon; the rainforest found in Southern America.
The Amazonian natives have resorted to the use of drones to monitor areas of the forest. This is in a bid to combat illegal logging activities in the forest. This comes in the wake of increased illegal logging activities and the recent rise in palm oil demand.
The program which was pioneered by the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), an indigenous rights organization, in partnership with Oxfam has garnered much publicity around the world.
The program has achieved some early successes. Recently after the office of the Peruvian Ministry of Transport and Communications, asked the natives to provide evidence that a logging company was building an illegal road in the forest, the drones took to the sky. After monitoring, the tribes were able to gather enough proof and the government put a stop to the road project.
I believe that it is worthy of note here that one of the high points of this program is that it was adopted by the natives themselves. Thus, the results are more likely to be long-lasting and sustainable.
In Nigeria and Africa, technology such as GPS, GIS, GSM and satellite phone technologies are beginning to play bigger roles in the quest to solve environmental challenges. These movements, even though encouraged by the government, is often spearheaded by startups and civil societies. Initiatives like Save the Elephants and RecyclePoints are only a few.
The improvements of technology historically has not been beneficial for most areas of the environment. From the increased mining of rare earth metals to the growing e-waste crisis, the environment has generally borne the brunt of mans’ technological advances. However, the saviour for the environment might also lie in tech innovations. Programs such as this offer glimpses into the great strides that can be achieved in earth conservation with the strategic alliance of technology and human resources.
The success of this collaboration between people and machines further underscores the fact that technology in itself cannot really bring permanent solutions. What is key is the desire and will to implement and utilize such technology. This will for implementation can only be found in humans. It is often disappointing that the desire and will to use technology to affect change is often lacking in governments due to economic and political considerations. However, a great source of this will and desire is usually to be found in the minds of those most affected by the crises at hand.
Much of the harm that has been done to the earth and the environment has been brought about by humans. Some people would say that this puts humans in the best position to undo them. In my opinion, this is not very likely as many humans will likely refuse to take responsibility. Technology, on the other hand, presents endless possibilities for environmental protection and preservation. An ideal solution then would be a collaboration of human resources and technology. How could robotics, automation, apps, digital devices, software programs and other technologies be deployed to help conservation efforts and the environmental movement? The answers to this question will likely help shape the movement going forward.
As we applaud the good work of the Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP) and Oxfam we hope that more of such programs spring up in endangered places around the world. Working together, maybe Man and Machine could save the world after all.