How old mobile phones help spot illegal logging

According to National geographic, your old mobile could help save rainforests from illegal logging. It’s all thanks to one of NG’s explorers, engineer Topher White, who has dreamed up an innovative way to pin down the noise made by illegal loggers.

Topher White is dedicated to stopping global deforestation. He’s the founder of the San Francisco-based non-profit organisation, the Rainforest Connection. His latest invention is amazing, harnessing old cellphones to listen for the unmistakeable sound of illegal loggers going about their business. Initiatives like this matter more than ever, with areas of forest half the size of England lost every year and the Amazon losing a fifth of its rainforest cover in the past forty years.

Why stopping illegal logging matters

Logging and the resulting loss of forest harms wildlife. It destroys the homelands of species that can only live in very specific environments. It adds to the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, currently responsible for a whopping 17% of the planet’s emissions. As a result it contributes enormously to climate change. And 50 – 90% of the logging in rainforests around the world is illegal.

The problem is, pinning down illegal logging has always been really tricky since the forest itself is so noisy, filled with the cries of animals and birds and the constant buzz of billions of insects. White’s clever invention detects chainsaws and other logging sounds easily. The idea is to rig a mobile phone with solar cells so it stays permanently charged, attach an extra microphone, then simply listen. The resulting device can, apparently, detect chainsaws almost a mile away, analysing sound using data analysis tech that White has also built into the mobiles.

Supporting indigenous people’s conservation efforts

Oddly, mobile reception in rainforests is often pretty good once you get up into the canopy. The devices can work independently without humans having to listen constantly, which is really handy. They automatically detect logging activity and send a text alert to the authorities.

Because indigenous people are at the forefront of forest conservation efforts, the new gadget can also help them so a better job of looking after their own regions of forest. It’s cheap, fast and effective, and it could prove a game-changer. He’s been promoting these  devices for a couple of years and they’re already being widely used in Cameroon, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil.

Donate your old mobile phone to the cause

If you’d like to donate your old mobile to the cause, you can find out more here

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