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Logo (via Rainforest Connection)

 

We’ve all seen them before; those cell phone recycling bins found in most office supply and electronic stores like Office Depot or Radio Shack. Those used phones typically either get recycled for their rare-earth minerals or are ported off and given to those in need of communications in poverty stricken countries. A non-profit company, Rainforest Connection, wants to use them for a wire-tapping operation of sorts (no not on American citizens) by hanging them on trees in key rainforests. The company is looking to stop illegal logging in countries such as Indonesia where rainforests are home to many species of rare plants and animals that are rapidly becoming extinct. In order to accomplish their goal, Rainforest Connection plans to use ‘new’ (donated) modified Android-based phones in order to test their system but will eventually switch over to used or recycled phones once the testing phase is over. The phones will be outfitted with micro solar panels that will recharge the phone once sunlight breaks through the rainforest canopy. The phones themselves will keep the microphone on at all time (24 hours) to listen for the tale-tell sign of chainsaw motors revving up to begin cutting. Once ‘heard’ specialized software sends out an alert and notifies local rangers of the illegal practices who can then stop the suspects thereby minimizing the overall damage to the forest.

 

Each phone the company will use can monitor an area about a third of a mile in diameter and cost roughly $2.80 US a month for unlimited data (would be nice to get those prices here in the US) to monitor each phones area. As funny as it sounds, most rainforests boast cell services even in remote areas, which is key for Rainforest Connection to get its project off the ground (no pun intended). The initial beta test will involve 15 phones all together which will be deployed in the Air Tarusan reserve located in western Sumatra. While those 15 phones will not be able to cover Tarusan’s area of around 29,000 hectares of forest it is a good start and if the project is successful it is the company’s hope to expand the listening radius by simplifying the tech so that locals can install them with relative ease. Rainforests once covered 14% of earth’s land mass and has been reduced to about 6% over the last decades due to over-logging, which severely damages the ecosystems around those areas, as well as having a negative impact all over the globe. Those rainforests account for roughly half of the earth’s plants, animals and microorganisms, which will become extinct in the next 40 or so years once those forests are gone. An interesting fact is that the current generation of shamans (medicine men) living in and around those rainforests are around 70 years old and if they can’t pass on their knowledge of the local flora and fauna the tribe, as well as the world, will lose precious knowledge concerning the medicinal properties of those plants. Academic professors from prestigious institutions around the globe routinely interact with those shamans in efforts to develop cures for terminal illnesses which plague the globe and could be lost forever if the forests themselves become extinct. 

 

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