The ease of use of Google Maps’ new satellite imagery integration is going to have some interesting implications.
It’s a mind-blowing use of technology. If you’ve played with the full version of Keyhole before, the novelty is a bit dampened (especially since the web data is quite a bit lower in resolution), but the ability to toggle back and forth between map and satellite views is insanely useful for establishing a sense of scale.
Interesting things are happening already. Matt Haughey has been exploring and annotating what he’s finding. Jeff Veen thinks it’s a fulfillment of an Orwellian prophesy, by the people instead of by the government. Privacy concerns for the individual? Well, there are bound to be those. Read the comments on Jeff’s “Google is Watching” post for intelligent rebuttals — it’s not even close to real time data for one, and Flickr has much more potential as a surveillance tool anyway.
But corporate and environmental whistle-blowing? Let’s kick that off right in my own backyard. The province of British Columbia has a huge and thriving forestry industry. There are a lot of things one could say about trade tariffs and exporting practices and pine beetles and other business concerns, as they’ve been in the media lately. I have mixed feelings about that industry in general, as it is important to the local economy, and I’ve done my share of work for companies that earn their money from cutting down trees.
But that’s as far as I’ll go to defend it. A picture is worth a thousand words and all that, so here’s a 4000 word essay on what the forestry industry is doing in British Columbia, as of whatever the date was when the satellite snapped these. Click through any image to get to the Google Maps bookmark of the same, it’s worth it to move around a bit and get a sheer sense of scale (and see how much more there is to this than what I’ve depicted in these 4 shots.)
What’s it like on the ground in one of these clear cut areas? Well, if you’re lucky and the operators of the cut have actually replanted anything, it’s generally a young glade of small but healthy trees.
If they haven’t, it’s ugly. The bleak ground is covered with gnarled and torn wood left behind to rot in the elements, and muddy where the root systems that used to keep the soil together have died. It’s disgustingly barren, while at the same time being impassable due to the amount of dead vegetation littering the destroyed ecosystem. I wish I had some photos of that, perhaps I’ll see what I can dig up.