Climate change and global warming are the biggest threats to our generation, and one of the leading causes is deforestation, and while we are making good progress on reducing our carbon footprint and emissions, we have yet to come up with a solution to combat deforestation, because frankly, wood and its byproducts are things that we use in our day to day lives, thus, we just can’t stop using it until we find a safe alternative material.
While we can’t stop using wood and its products, we can and should stop illegal logging, but while we already set laws to prevent deforestation, rainforests are huge and deforestation can happen quickly so a lot of people escape the crimes they commit.
In this article, we’ll take a look at Rainforest Connection and their system of Rainforest Guardians, and how their system can save the rainforests using People, Cellular Networks, and Trash.
Deforestation, a Hard Problem to Solve
There are many causes of deforestation, some of them are natural causes such as disasters like wildfires and droughts brought on by climate change, and a lot of them are human activities, often to meet our daily needs. While we still can’t stop cutting down trees for our needs, we should stop illegal logging which accounts for 50%-90% of all logging, and is the leading cause of deforestation.
Aside from promoting and sticking to sustainable sources, how can we stop illegal loggers?
The thing is, everything we need to stop illegal loggers are already implemented and set in place; there are laws that would bring illegal loggers to justice, and there are rangers that monitor protected forests, so why is illegal logging still taking place on protected territories?
I found out that it has something to do with how quickly illegal loggers work and how huge rainforests can be, I also discovered that rainforests are overwhelmingly loud, birds are chirping, monkeys and apes shouting, and cicadas buzzing, and even if you remove all the animals living in a rainforest, the rustling of hundreds and even thousands of trees are still very loud.
This cacophony of sounds covers up even the loudest chainsaws and trucks, allowing loggers to work in full force without the fear or risk of being heard by the authorities.
The Birth of Rainforest Connection
Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection, discovered everything I mentioned earlier while on his trip to a rainforest in Borneo. He went to the rainforest to enjoy the peaceful yet chaotic sounds of nature, and sure enough, they discovered freshly cut trees on their tour, the surprising part? The cut-down trees were near a guard post, and no one heard the chainsaws throughout the process.
But then, Topher White tried recording the sounds of that forest earlier, and once he turned down every animal sound that he can, he discovered that the sounds of chainsaws can be faintly heard on the recordings, with this information, he set out to come up with something that should help the authorities catch illegal loggers.
Listening Is the Solution
Topher White’s solution to help stop illegal logging is the Rainforest Guardian, a device that’s inconspicuously attached to treetops and continuously listens for the sounds of chainsaws and engines that loggers use.
It starts with the noise that the microphone picks up, which can come from up to a mile away in all directions. Although there’s one problem, as we mentioned before, rainforests are overwhelmingly noisy, and using a sensitive microphone alone won’t be enough to cut it, the system would only hear white noise.
That brings us to the next part, the phone, which serves two purposes, processing the raw signal and sending alerts to the cloud. The phone processes the audio signal by analyzing the raw audio and focusing on the usual sounds that chainsaws and engines make.
Newer Rainforest Guardians also utilize more powerful processors and even AI and machine learning to detect chainsaws faster and more reliably. Once the Guardian detects the sounds of chainsaws or engines, it sends a signal to Rainforest Connection Guardian Cloud Platform via GSM or Satellite (with the help of the improved antennas), and the Cloud Platform sends a message alerting the authorities and asking them to come near the alerted Guardian.
Do Rainforest Guardians Work?
I know a lot of people will be asking ‘does it actually work?’ A simple answer to that is, yes. Rainforest Guardians have everything they need, a lot of forests surprisingly have cellular networks so the Guardians can easily transmit messages, if a forest has a poor cellular connection, the Guardians will use the improved antenna or better yet, satellite connectivity.
Another concern is the solar panels, even if they attach the Guardians high up on trees, they can still be blocked by leaves, would the solar panels get enough light? A solution to that is the custom solar panel arrangement, it’s arranged in a way that it can get ample sunlight in most conditions.
How about rain? The Rainforest Guardian’s processor and other water-sensitive electrical components are inside an IP66 Weather Resistant Enclosure. Besides that, the solar panels also help as they also act as an umbrella for the Guardian.
As proof of its efficacy, the first implementation of a Rainforest Guardian in Indonesia proved to be a success on its second day, it sent a real-time alert which led the authorities to catch the loggers in the act.
A lot of you might be thinking ‘what if the loggers took the Guardians off before chopping some trees down?’ Well, I didn’t mention yet that Guardians also has accelerometers or motion sensors so if someone shook the Guardian to a certain threshold, it would also alert the authorities.
As of now, according to Rainforest Connection, they have protected 92 reserves in 32 countries with more than 500 Guardians on active duty!
The best reason why the Rainforest Guardian work is because it’s fully sustainable and most of the parts came from recycled materials, specifically the solar panels which came from industrial waste, and the brains of the Guardian which are old phones that people sent to Rainforest Connection.
Rainforest Guardians Don’t Only Guard Trees
As the name implies, Rainforest Guardians guard the forest in general, not just trees. Its main purpose is listening to the forest and reporting unusual sounds, and as we discussed that includes engines and chainsaws, but that’s not all, Rainforest Guardians also record and monitor wildlife sounds and send the audio files to the Cloud, they can then identify what animals are making the sounds and use that sound for automatic detection, that way, the Guardian can also monitor endangered species.
To add to that, the Guardians can also detect gunshots and alert the authorities, this time to stop poaching, so overall, you can say that the Rainforest Guardian actually lives up to its name, protecting the rainforest as a whole.
Rainforest Connection App
Yes, you read that right, they have a free app! For what though? Well, you can use the app to access their library of rainforest sounds or even listen to sounds of specific animals, which is great for research but also great if you like to take your ears on a quick vacation.
You can also listen to live streams of different rainforests if that’s your type of jam, who knows maybe you can even become a Rainforest Guardian yourself as well and keep an ear out for chainsaws and unusual sounds.
How Can We Support Rainforest Connection?
Rainforest Guardians are a great idea, to say the least, but how can anyone support them in the battle against illegal logging and poaching? If you have an idea for a project you can reach out to Rainforest Connection and if not, you can still donate.
What do you think about Rainforest Connection and its army of Rainforest Guardians? Make sure to put that thought in the comments down below! Thank you for reading!