Thursday, May 24, 2007

Loosing control

The announcement of last week’s launch of a Nigerian telecom satellite by China is not only China’s first successful launch of a home built satellite, but it well certainly a big step in a much more efficient extraction of natural resources in the developed world by China whose foreign policy is largely driven to secure the supply of its huge need of natural resources. That means, that the exploitation of tropical resources will continue, most likely at an increased rate.

This happens at a time, where the US government creates many enemies abroad and, for conservation and taxonomy more importantly, closed down NASA’s Earth Sciences program and siphons a lot of funding into a Mars program which could not be launched at a worth time. Hopefully, the Europeans can fill in some of this gap with their ENVISAT and a series of new smaller satellites, and hopefully make at least some core data accessible for scientists and conservationists at large, similar to the current NASA policy (see eg GLCF) as partner of the Conservation Commons (A nice contradiction between White House policy and scientists concerned about conservation within NASA!).

Taxonomists better assure, that their data is quickly processed and made accessible so conservationists in the field can use it to have an impact on the increased extraction of natural resources as well as the monitoring of it. The combination of specimen data in the field, near real time remote sensing data and predictive modeling offers now a much advanced tool to support action on the place where it is most efficient. Never before was the chance to have close up images of even the remotest corner of the world (eg Google Earth, or GLCF, and increasingly, the Internet allows to supply colleagues in such places with data, and on the other hand we can get more information to do a much better job from within our own institutions.