Map it or Lose the Knowledge
In 2018, archaeologists bathed part of a Guatemalan forest in laser beams to reveal the profile of a hidden, ancient metropolis. Now, researchers at a nonprofit called The Earth Archive would like to use this method again to map the entire land area of the Earth. (Courtesy of Luke Auld-Thomas and Marcello A. Canuto)
Earth is changing faster than anyone can comprehend. Every day, more forests burn, more glaciers melt and more evidence of the world’s ancient cultures slips away. Change of some kind is, of course, inevitable — but it is happening more quickly and more severely because of the effects of human-caused climate change. And that has some scientists worried: The quicker Earth changes, the less time there is to learn from its past and understand its mysteries.
Recently, two researchers proposed a way to preserve a record of our planet in its present state: use lasers to create a high-resolution, 3D map of the entire world. It’s now the mission of a new nonprofit project called The Earth Archive, which is spearheaded by archaeologist Chris Fisher and geographer Steve Leisz, both of Colorado State Universit
“The climate crisis threatens to destroy our cultural and ecological patrimony within decades,” Fisher said earlier this year in a TEDx talk. “How can we document everything before it’s too late?”
The technique has become more prominent in archaeological surveys in the past decade, helping researchers uncover lost cities in heavily forested parts of Africa and South America, buried roads in ancient Rome and previously undiscovered cityscapes in Cambodia. In 2007, Fisher was part of a team that used lidar to uncover traces of a lost metropolis in the Honduran rainforest. These scans, Fisher said in his TEDx talk, revealed more details about the city’s ruins in 10 minutes than he and his colleagues could have found in 10 years of research on the ground.
“Who is going to give them permission to fly over Brazil? The Brazilian government aren’t,” Disney said, referring to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s ongoing efforts to undermine science and open parts of the protected rainforest to commercial interests.
To learn more about the project or to donate, visit The Earth Archive’s website.
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Originally published on Live Science.