When a nature lover jots down notes on his or her observations of flora and fauna, it is indeed a simple form of Earth observation. Due to the advancement of technology, Earth observation can take complex forms, such as radar images from Earth observation satellites, allowing the observation from orbit. Examples of such satellites are NASA’s TIMED and European Space Agency’s ENVISAT.
The aforementioned forms of Earth observation provide raw data. On the other hand, sophisticated forms of Earth observation, such as predictive maps and models, are based on processed information and are highly required for making decisions regarding issues such as emergency evacuation, urgent response to natural disasters, and budget allocation for disaster management.
Relationship between Earth Observations and Sustainability of the Earth
Bird watching, a simple form of Earth observation, can provide insight into migration of birds, fragility of the ecosystem, population density of birds, and climate changes. Recreational Earth observations, such as bird watching, can lead to appreciation of nature by common citizens, even those who lack a formal education or even initial interest in environmental science. Travel writer Jeanine Barone (2010) predicted, “As the Maltese children develop an appreciation for nature, perhaps this tradition of shooting and trapping birds illegally will become a thing of the past.”
Apart from the sustainability of the Earth, bird watching provides opportunities for entrepreneurship in the tourism sector. Guided tours can become major businesses, while simultaneously educating the tourists on the need for conservation. Bird watching also provides a means of networking, which can transform into long-lasting relationships necessary for building the nation collectively. For instance, the Disabled Birders Association ensures that individuals with disability can share in the joys of a common hobby.
An adventurous form of Earth observation is exploration. Field Expedition: Mongolia, Valley of the Khans Project is an appropriate example. This archaeological project aims to preserve the culture and archaeological heritage of Mongolia, while preventing illegal mining in the region. Illegal mining causes extinction of animals, desertification, and changes in rainfall. Exploration also leads to discovery. For instance, Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish biologist considered to be one of the fathers of modern ecology, described 100 plants – which were previously unknown – during his expedition to Lapland.
A complex form of Earth observation is space exploration. QuickBird is a high-resolution Earth observation satellite that can easily map buildings and other infrastructure. Therefore, it can reveal much-needed information for city planning. European Space Agency’s ENVISAT (environmental satellite)’s objective is to improve environmental studies by providing information on ozone depletion, pollution, humidity, agriculture, and natural hazards. India’s Oceansat-2 is dedicated to researching aerosol content in the atmosphere and suspended sediments in the water along the coastal regions. As a result, it has the potential to identify air and water pollution.
Owing to the importance of Earth observations, many nations have invested heavily in this sector and yet more are scaling up their investment. The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) unites 75 nations and 51 organizations, including the United Nations Environment Program, to accelerate the prevalence and use of Earth observations in protecting the Earth. In addition, there are many projects that encourage the participation of the general public in Earth observations. World Water Monitoring Day is dedicated to such an initiative. It provokes the public to actually think about the water quality, and act responsibly thereafter, by allowing individuals to perform basic monitoring of local bodies of water.
Earth Observations in Bangladesh
“Due to the lack of proper ocean observing system, 2012 might be the centenary of the sinking Titanic of the low lands of Bangladesh. The use of observations and numerical models can be crucial to understanding the subtle sea-level changes occurring in that region.” (Nomana Intekhab Hadi, 2011). For bird watching, although Botanical Garden in Bangladesh is famous, “the garden authority has done little to preserve or improve its bird habitats.” (Enam Ul Haque, 2010).
Earth observations are yet to be popular in Bangladesh, especially among the youth. There is a lack of awareness that Earth observation includes simple activities, such as bird watching, and that it is so critical to the sustainability of the Earth. Also at work is a lack of funds, technology, and expertise to carry out Earth observations. For instance, bird watchers must be trained to avoid stressing birds through their photography, destroying nests, and trespassing into private property.
However, the efforts of Bangladesh are praiseworthy. Bangladesh Astronomical Society is very active and regularly organizes seminars and workshops. It has a robust partnership with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The Department of Environment of Bangladesh has initiated about 12 projects, all of which include elements of Earth observation for a sustainable Earth. Bangladesh became a member of Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) in December 2007. In 2008, Bangladesh decided to “improve the water resources management through sharing data and information system” with assistance from GEOSS. (BSS, 2008). Bird fairs, aimed at creating awareness among people about birds and nature conservation, are also common in Bangladesh.
Academic institutions, governments, private businesses, non-profit organizations, scientists and many others rely on data from Earth observations. There might not be many Earth observations taking place in Bangladesh, but the citizens of Bangladesh are definitely in awe of nature and are keen to work for the sustainability of the Earth. The key is to raise awareness about the relationship between Earth observations and sustainability.
This was originally published on 6th of February, 2012 by Earthzine (http://www.earthzine.org/), an online source for news, articles, information, and educational materials about Earth science, Earth observations, and users of Earth information for the international Earth-observing community. Earthzine is a contribution of the IEEE Committee on Earth Observation (ICEO) in support of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and its mission. Earthzine has granted exclusive republishing rights to The Weekend Independent.
Original article extracted from Earthzine