Do-Gooders Doing Google Earth

Three-dimensional maps from Google Earth are giving nonprofits new artillery in their battle to raise awareness of issues like deforestation and genocide. For example, Mary Ann Hitt, executive director of nonprofit Appalachian Voices, said a collective of grassroots organisations is using 3D maps in Google Earth to show how millions of acres of Appalachian Mountains across four states have been destroyed by mining companies. In a process called mountaintop removal, the coal-mining industry blows off the tops of mountains with explosives to get at coal faster and cheaper, she said. As a result, surrounding areas are buried by pollution and waste, streams dry up and a soot lingers in the air, she said. So with the help of Google, the nonprofit has built a virtual national memorial for 470 topless mountains in the area — marked by half-staff flags — with information and guides on the process of mountaintop removal. The map layer, found in Google Earth’s featured content, also shows historic before and after aerial photos of the mountains; overlay comparisons to illustrate the scope of destruction; and links to first-hand stories and videos from the communities affected by mountaintop removal

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