Conservation Community: building on the technological revolution

Last week, Blog Officer Emily Wight went to the launch of Healthy Planet’s new initiative for charitable giving. Here she reflects on the event and the use of interactive technology to encourage people to give money to causes.

Use Healthy Planet's Conservation Community to map where your money is going. Photo: Frontierofficial

Use Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community to map where your money is going. Photo: Frontierofficial

Conservation is one of the many global causes that is perhaps overlooked by potential donors in the UK due to its seeming remoteness. One of the reasons a protected area must stay protected is because part of its beauty lies in it being completely cut off from the rest of the world, right?

Well, not necessarily. The environmental charity Healthy Planet has launched a brand new initiative capitalising on the technological revolution of the past few decades. Conservation Community is a social network using Google Earth technology to present users with the ability to visualise conservation sites the world over. Visitors can browse Healthy Planet’s particular projects, choose which cause best suits them and decide how much they want to donate. As Healthy Planet founder Shaylesh Patel says, “You can interact with the work that you support.”

When DiA Secretary Catherine Glew and I went along to the launch event last week we were extremely impressed by the concept, presentation and general decision to marry together our oldest and most precious entity – our planet – with our newest: the ever-evolving phenomenon of technology. How fitting and even beautiful that something which many believe pull us further away from nature could actually be one of the key answers to our environmental crisis.

And there is no doubt that a grave crisis exists, both in terms of climate change and dwindling resources for us all to live on. In a speech at the event, Dr Mark Mulligan, lecturer at Kings College London and chair of the conservation advisory board for Healthy Planet, declared that if the entire population of the world shared out land equally, we would each have the equivalent of two football pitches on which to live, sustain ourselves, and dispose of waste.

It goes without saying that we just don’t live in this sustainable way at all. Patel continued: “In Europe, each one of us uses the equivalent of five – that’s our footprint on the land surface. In the United States there are 7, in India there are less than one – 0.8 – but they’re moving up quickly, as they are in China.”

Why, then, use Google’s mapping systems? Ed Parsons, Google’s geospatial technologist highlighted the greater feedback it can enable: “It is increasingly easy now for people to report back, to communicate about what’s going on, and they can do that explicity: they can write blog posts, they can tweet, they can take pictures.”

He continued: “We can develop that relationship with a need or an issue that might be local to us or it might be very distant to us – we can have that close relationship, we can build the connection.”

It may not save the world single-handedly. But Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community is a fresh and innovative approach to donating money – and seeing the difference you can really make to a community on the other side of the world. It’s also, I realise after writing this post, a simple and obvious idea which one can only hope will influence other conservation, aid and development projects in the future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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