Satellite imagery activism: Sharpening the focus on tropical deforestation

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Since the first land remote sensing satellite was launched in the early 1970s, government agencies, private companies and research institutions have used satellite imagery data for a growing range of civil and commercial applications focused on natural resource management and exploitation, and environmental monitoring. The global diffusion of remote sensing expertize, along with growing public access to satellite images, has created conditions for improving levels of global transparency. One aspect of this global transparency is the advent of new users of imagery data – or ‘imagery activists’– including, among others, issue-oriented nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), media groups, multinational organizations and academic researchers who now are able to access satellite imagery in order to draw domestic and international attention to particular public policy concerns. This paper broadly surveys the contemporary phenomenon of satellite imagery activism and outlines the main challenges facing imagery activists, particularly in relation to deforestation and other forest monitoring issues.
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