The Earth is changing faster than anyone can understand. Every day more forests are burning, more glaciers are melting and more evidence of ancient cultures in the world is slipping away. Change of some kind is, of course, inevitable – but it happens faster and more severely because of the effects of climate change caused by man. And this worries some scientists: The faster the Earth changes, the less time we have to learn from our past and understand its mysteries.
Recently, two researchers have proposed a way to keep our planet's file in its current state: use lasers to create a high-resolution 3D map around the world. It is now the mission of a new nonprofit project called the Earth Archive, which is led by archaeologist Chris Fisher and geographer Steve Lies, both from the University of Colorado.
"The climate crisis threatens to destroy cultural and environmental heritage in decades," Fisher said earlier this year in a TEDx talk. "How can we document everything before it's too late?"
Related: The Hidden Mayan Civilization Discovered Under the Canopies of Guatemala (19459017) A remote scanning method that uses drones to dampen a landscape with a dense laser beam, from which light bombing researchers can create high resolution 3D maps. ability to give and then digitally edit greenery and other features that may hide hard-to-see secrets near the earth's surface.
Technique has become more prominent in archaeological studies over the last decade, helping researchers to find lost cities afforested parts of Africa and South America, buried roads in ancient Rome and previously undiscovered urban landscapes in Cambodia. In 2007, Fisher was part of a team that used a leader to track down a lost metropolis in the tropical forests of Honduras. These scans, Fisher said in his interview with TEDx, revealed more details about the city's ruins in 10 minutes than he and his colleagues could find in a 10-year exploration of the earth.
The experiment convinced Fisher that scientists must "scan, scan, scan" to capture the most vulnerable places in the world before they disappear. Earth Archive efforts will focus on scanning the entire terrestrial surface of the planet, which covers about 29% of the planet's surface, starting from the most endangered regions, such as the Amazon rainforest and coastal regions, at risk of washing from rising at sea level. The project is likely to take decades, Fisher said, but the resulting photo of Earth will be "the ultimate gift for future generations."
This, of course, will require a lot of funding; The project needs about $ 10 million just to scan the majority of the Amazon over the next three years, Fisher told The Guardian. This price has some other researchers who are worried about the endurance of the Earth's archives. Matt Disney, a professor at University College London's Department of Geography, told The Guardian that such a project would inevitably attract funding away from other research projects. Even with adequate funding, he added, obtaining a research aircraft permit over restricted airspace would prove to be a logistical hurdle.
"Who will give them permission to fly over Brazil? The Brazilian government is not." Disney said, referring to the ongoing efforts of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to undermine science and identify parts of the protected rainforest for commercial interests.
To learn more about the project or to donate, visit the Earth Archive website.
Originally published in Live Science.