Search engine goliath Google Inc. announced last week that it is adding environmental content to its free geographic mapping and satellite photo tool Google Earth. The company has already begun integrating overlays on Google Earth utilizing content and data from the United Nations Environment Program, the National Park Service, Discovery Networks, National Geographic and the Jane Goodall Institute, among others.
Users can access the new environmental information by clicking on the "Featured Content" checkbox in the Google Earth sidebar, and then selecting a content provider to find out more about a particular geographic area. The UNEP overlay, for example, provides before-and-after imagery and text detailing the fates of 100 areas of extreme environmental degradation around the world (such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon rainforest) over the past three decades. The National Park Service overlay includes detailed park descriptions, and information on visitor facilities and hiking trails within 58 American national parks. Users clicking onto the Jane Goodall Institute overlay can virtually visit with and learn about the chimpanzees in Tanzania"s Gombe reserve.
“We are excited to provide users with the opportunity to learn more about the natural wonders and manmade landmarks of the world with Featured Content for Google Earth,” says Google"s John Hanke. “We believe Google Earth is an excellent medium for organizing and sharing the world’s geographic information. We will continue to explore opportunities to bring visually compelling and informative content into Google Earth,” he adds.