NEWS: Interactive map highlights environmental status of the Amazon basin
by James Fahn
The Amazon region is one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world, keeping in check climate change by absorbing CO2. Yet, in the light of its importance, the region has faced acute environmental and developmental challenges. Over the last five years the Amazon region has been affected by two ‘once-in-a-century’ droughts and large-scale deforestation.
Despite this, the Latin American public’s perception of climate and development issues in the Amazon region is far removed from the reality on the ground. The mainstream media has not conveyed the extent of the environmental and development challenges being faced, their causes or implications.
Now a new interactive map seeks to help people keep up-to-date on the state of the Amazon basin. The map at the center of www.InfoAmazonia.org combines the descriptive power of cartography with timely news and reports about environmental threats to the region. The innovative portal was created jointly by O Eco, a Brazilian online news agency, and Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, with the support of CDKN and several other donors.
Three layers show deforestation, fires and extractive industries, adding critical context to stories overlaid above. News can be filtered by the main contributor sources involved in InfoAmazonia and by news submitted by readers. By taking this collaborative approach, the creators of InfoAmazonia seek to build a community of storytellers and data collectors to keep the map as current as possible.
“Maps have been a means to interpret reality for many centuries. With InfoAmazonia.org we use this old instrument in a digital age to visualize and communicate information in a better, innovative way,” explains Gustavo Faleiros, editor of the Brazilian environmental news agency O Eco, creator of InfoAmazonia, and a Knight International Journalism Fellow of the International Center for Journalists.
Visitors to the site can browse news in Portuguese, Spanish and English, reflecting the Amazon’s spreads across nine South American countries. Once a story icon is clicked, it appears in a sidebar along with photos or video.
“InfoAmazonia’s development happened at a time when there is a lot of talk about open-source data,” added Faleiros. “There are many institutes and NGOs that have collected data about the Amazon region for years. But they have not made this data available to the general public. This project will provide a platform to share this data, together with other open-source data, such as [that] on deforestation provided by Brazil’s government, and on forest fires from NASA satellites.”
This innovative approach has a time-honoured purpose: to help people discover and protect the rich natural heritage of the world’s largest rainforest.
Image credit: Infoamazonia