Google Maps’ Street View option has been letting people virtually travel down streets in cities and towns across the world since 2007. In 2010, it added indoor spaces, in 2012, it began adding exotic, hard to reach places, and in 2014, it added views from different time periods. But Google’s latest view may be its most ambitious yet: The inside of the Amazon jungle.
Using a backpack-mounted camera (named Trekker), which has previously gone to far-flung places such as the Galapagos Islands and the Canadian Arctic, the Google team traveled deep into the Amazon jungle in Brazil to take photographs. Working with an environmental group, they set up zip lines through the trees and sent the Trekker camera down the lines to snap pictures.
It’s amazing to see how much Google Maps has evolved in just 10 years. It began by simply drawing roads. Then it launched cars with mounted cameras that criss-crossed America (and the world), snapping pictures of the front of buildings. Now, they’re relying on creative techniques such as ziplines to obtain views of even the most remote places on earth. The Amazon rainforest is a massive region spreading across several countries in South America, and relatively few people have been inside. Some tribal groups who dwell there may have never even been contacted by the outside world. The Amazon used to be considered one of the few places left that had been unspoiled by human development. Could Google’s latest foray be the first step towards removing the Amazon’s remoteness once and for all?
Well, I certainly hope not! It is true that, in the past, deforestation has been a major problem in the region. But lately there have been greater efforts at conservation, and more people seem to recognize how critical it is to preserve the stunning level of biodiversity in the rainforest. So far, it does not look like Google’s mapping efforts will be causing any significant damage, especially due to the fact that they have an environmental group hovering over their shoulder. If Google brings the inside of the Amazon to our computer screens, and refrains from any other type of interference, this might actually be a good thing. Being able to virtually swing through the Amazonian trees could increase people’s emotional connection with the flora and fauna of the region, and make all of us a little more cautious about our own personal environmental impact.