News archive 2008
Healthy Planet website launched22 Apr 2008, PR 71/08
An innovative new website, drawing on the research of a King’s geographer will allow individuals and companies to sponsor areas of protected parks throughout the world, choosing from more than 70,000 different parks or heritage sites in danger.
The website www.healthyplanet.org goes live today, Earth Day. The system will employ Reader in Physical Geography, Dr Mark Mulligan’s land use change alerting products to prioritise where individuals should adopt land, and will feed back information on land use change to individuals using Google Earth.
Using Google Earth and Google Maps technology (so called ‘NeoGeo’) helps to engage sponsors or “Land Guardians” with – even remote – plots that they have adopted. Moreover, donors can assist in mapping various aspects of the parks to assist on-the-ground conservation efforts by using the Google Earth based ‘geo-wiki’ functionality developed by Dr Mulligan and employed in other data gathering (so-called crowd-sourcing) efforts at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/geodata
The concept for the charity Healthy Planet was born out of discussions between Dr Mulligan, who has been making geo-data available and accessible to nonscientists for many years, and businessman, Shaylesh Patel who sees the need to make change towards sustainability from the ground up - starting with individuals.
They explain: ‘We shared concerns for the future health of both the planet and the people on it. We wanted to help people make a positive change as individuals which would last beyond their lifetime as a legacy for themselves and future generations. Guardians is about individuals taking responsibility for an important piece of the real Earth by engaging with fundraising, mapping and managing of conservation efforts from the platform of a virtual (Google) Earth.’
Coining the phrase “armchair volunteering”, Healthy Planet’s first initiative is supporting the Planet’s already protected ecosystems by involving companies and individuals in online sponsorship and research, carried out from the comfort of their own armchair (or office desk!). Though these areas are nominally protected, in many cases they are little more than ‘paper parks’ since there is not the funding or capacity for sustainable management for conservation: yet they are all important enough to have been given protected status by national governments.
Guardians allows individuals to engage with conservation efforts by adopting areas in these parks in Google Earth. Donors select a hectare or square kilometre to adopt from a pool of National Parks and then complete a secure transaction to donate into the park fund. Donors (who may adopt for themselves or as a gift), fill in a plaque which appears on their plot for all others to see and recognises their adoption of that plot.
National parks authorities and conservation organisations working in the parks can bid to the (online) community of donors for a particular park who vote which eligible conservation projects are funded in a particular year. The funded implementing organisation then feeds back to the community of donors by adding information on activities and outcomes to their park in the Google Earth database.
Major iconic places in protected areas, for example, the summit of Everest, are reserved for auction to raise the most funds for the park.
[Image: Victoria Falls]
Notes to editors
Dr Mark Mulligan
Mark Mulligan has made many large scale environmental databases available as Google Earth KML for visualisation and download (at the King’s College London geoportal http://www.kcl.ac.uk/geodata), including some ‘geowiki’, crowd-sourcing projects to build new global databases, for example, the location of the world’s dams. The portal uses the visual power of Google Earth to give scientists and non-scientists alike access to some of the latest satellite and other data.
Healthy Planet www.healthyplanet.org
The charity has been set up in association with UNEP-WCMC (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre).
Further reward for sponsorship comes in the form of a points system. Each time land is adopted, Land Guardians are allocated a certain number of points. These can be used to sponsor more land; to donate back to Healthy Planet; or can be redeemed as vouchers for Holland & Barrett, Body Shop and other high street retailers.
Additionally, once the corporate sponsor has adopted their chosen piece of forest or park, they become part of a forum with other sponsors who have put funds into the same National Park. This community is kept informed of conservation projects taking place in the Park and will have opportunities to vote for certain projects to be prioritized; to receive annual reports on the land; and to donate or help raise more funds for extra work. Akin to a “Facebook” group, these online communities are able to engage with conservation activities in the park, bringing their charitable sponsorship truly to life.
King’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher 2007) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has 19,700 students from more than 140 countries, and 5,400 employees. King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. The College is in the top group of UK universities for research earnings and has an annual income of approximately £400 million. An investment of £500 million has been made in the redevelopment of its estate.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, social sciences, the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe and is home to five Medical Research Council Centres - more than any other university.
Melanie Gardner, Senior Public Relations Officer
Public Relations Department
King’s College London
Tel: 020 7848 3073
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