SPACE TECHNOLOGY IN ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY – In the tumultuous times of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental degradation, all effort is hurled into the search for solutions to alleviate the pressing planetary crises. Rethinking our attitude to the planet and living sustainably is the only viable way forward. Surprisingly enough, space technology has become a fundamental pillar of this much-needed shift, driving sustainable development in all corners of the world. On top of exploring the extraterrestrial, modern space tech and science are focused on enabling a better life here on Earth by giving us a bigger picture for making critical decisions.
“Eyes in the sky” – satellites – provide a wealth of insightful Earth observations that enhance our understanding of the environment and human impact on it. Thanks to advanced technologies, getting current satellite images and extracting valuable information has never been simpler than now. We’re utilizing space tech and data to track detrimental human-induced changes, craft better policies to protect resources and livelihoods, and raise global awareness of environmental issues.
Space tech companies are increasingly joining scientific and social initiatives in developing countries, aiming to make the benefits of space available to everyone, everywhere.
Space technology in environmental sustainability – Source: EOSDA
Among them is EOS Data Analytics (EOSDA), a global provider of AI-powered satellite imagery analytics that envisions a sustainable future guided by space tech. Aspired to be the catalyst of change, the company not only develops sustainability-oriented products but also actively participates in impact-driven projects, bringing its geospatial expertise to the table.
Let’s take a look at some of the most inspiring ones where satellite technologies proved invaluable.
How climate change harms indigenous people
Climate change is a thorn in the side of weather-sensitive agriculture, and in the most vulnerable countries with poor food security, it causes hunger and sparks conflicts. The Mayo-Kebbi Est region of Chad is one such place, where extreme weather exacerbated an already desperate resource shortage, putting local farmers and indigenous people at feud over the use of land and freshwater points.
To ensure fair sharing of available resources, a participatory mapping project was organized by Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a member of the Mbororo pastoralist people and founder and president of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad. Putting faith in geospatial mapping as a viable solution, she gathered 116 community leaders from 23 villages to establish a peaceful and sustainable management of land and water, thus improving the climate resilience of communities.
EOSDA contributed to the initiative by creating a printable 2D map layout based on current satellite imagery. It covered 1,728 square kilometres of the disputed territory with annotated natural and artificial objects. The members of local and indigenous communities verified the map and made it complete, adding the most important objects and information. This is how a combination of GIS scientific knowledge and traditional spatial knowledge of indigenous people paved the way for conflict settling and, most importantly, enhanced food security for all those who live off of diminishing natural resources.
Oil extraction poisoning rivers of the Amazon
While deforestation in the Amazon makes regular headlines, the dramatic consequences of oil extraction have been deliberately swept under the rug. Oil extracting companies turn a blind eye to frequent oil spills and the damage they cause to the environment and indigenous people living in affected areas. To most of these people, the Amazon River and its tributaries are the only source of freshwater and food, however, corporate profits sound louder than their cries for help.
In the spring of 2020, the Ecuadorian Amazon – in particular, the Napo and Coca rivers – suffered from the 2nd largest oil spill in fifteen years. Despite dire and long-lasting consequences for ecosystems, biodiversity, and local communities who lost the ability to fish, bathe, and developed health issues, not much has been done to mitigate the damage. Two years later, another oil spill hit the area.
To support indigenous people in their fight for rights and make their voices heard at the top level, EOSDA turned to satellite imagery analysis for assessing the aftermaths of both incidents. By leveraging a powerful combination of its online platforms EOSDA Crop Monitoring, EOSDA LandViewer and up to date satellite images of high resolution, the team was able to confirm significant vegetation deterioration in the affected areas.
Mapping and estimation of the environmental footprint of oil spills is just one of the tasks where satellite data analytics proves effective. It can do much greater good when applied regularly for monitoring oil extraction sites and specifically erosion-prone areas to predict potential pipeline ruptures and take precautionary measures before it’s too late.
Brazil’s nature hit hard by gold mining
In their quest for precious metals, gold miners destroy what is truly precious – our forests and rivers. Gold mining is a known driver of various forms of environmental degradation (soil contamination, deforestation, eutrophication) and health issues in people living next to mines. The Munduruku Indigenous Reserve in the state of Pará, Brazil is the 2nd worst affected region exploited by this industry, which is yet as much profitable as it is destructive.
Struggling to maintain livelihood security in the vicinity of gold mines, the Munduruku people have chosen to actively fight for their lands. Their efforts gained sustained support from NGOs, environmental activists, and companies like EOSDA that share the same vision of preserving our planet.
EOSDA team conducted research of their own based on a series of satellite data – both past and most recent satellite images between 2017 and 2022 – to study the effects of gold mining in the Itaituba region. A set of specialized remote sensing indices was applied to reveal the extent of deforestation over the 5 years and the presence of harmful algal blooms in the Tapajós River confirming wastewater discharge and the resulting water quality deterioration.
Islands sinking under the weight of climate crisis
There’s a threat of rising sea levels looming over coastal cities all over the world, yet for island dwellers, the issue takes on truly dangerous dimensions. The clock is ticking for Tangier Island town hidden away from the buzzing mainland in the Chesapeake Bay waters, Virginia, U.S. According to scientists, the island is sinking 2 mm a year due to the combined effect of wave-induced erosion and sea level rise accelerated by human activities. They predict that Tangier will become unfit for living somewhere between 2030 and 2065.
To draw public attention to this issue, EOSDA collected Landsat imagery of Tangier and created a satellite view of the Earth’s sinking island spanning over 20 years in EOSDA LandViewer. The timelapse highlighted the shrinking silhouette of the land, illustrating the extent and speed of the unfolding climate impacts. Despite all countermeasures, Tangier Island dwellers are at high risk of becoming climate change refugees – part of 13.1 million people who are projected to relocate inland by 2100 due to the sea level rise.
Space technology is about exploring what is beyond Earth, but also observing and in-depth studying Earth itself. Satellite data – be they recent satellite images or past century’s imagery archives – has proven itself as an incredible tool for unveiling hidden patterns, mapping changes, predicting future challenges, and, more importantly, making well-informed decisions today. Through combined global efforts and use of the space tech power humanity can break the vicious pattern of over-exploitation of Earth’s resources and secure a sustainable future for the next generations.
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