Planet Labs tracks human activity via satellites, ground stations and data centers. It provides timely information to best approach global stewardship. From food security, environmental monitoring, disaster response and climate resilience, Planet Labs advances social impact by developing rigorous data literacy.

Born in San Francisco in 2012, the startup envisioned what it would be like to create a cheap, simple spacecraft that could work with other tiny crafts to deliver real-time monitoring of the planet. The goal was to help people make more informed decisions about their impact on the earth. Fast-forward three years and today, Planet Labs’ mission is, “Fresh data from any place on earth is foundational to solving commercial, environmental, and humanitarian challenges.”

By “using space to help life on earth” Planet Labs creates tiny shoebox-sized satellites they call “Doves.” In January 2014, it launched Flock 1. At 28 Doves, it was the largest collection of Earth-imaging satellites ever sent to space.

Information technologies have the power to monitor local and global development for humanitarian and commercial use. They also provide mass appeal to those without access to such information. At the same time, the Doves are meant to canopy the earth at heights low enough to see treetops but high enough to conceal personal privacy.

Currently, its views are used in independent logistics, site development, crop monitoring, urbanization, natural resources and asset management.

In western Beijing, China, Planet Labs measures urban growth rates and points of infrastructural change. In 2013, Beijing welcomed an additional 455,000 people, totaling to 21.15 million.

The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park in China is one of the world’s largest solar power plants. Settled in China’s Qinghai Province, the park produces nearly 320 megawatts of power. Planet Labs imagery assists in monitoring these large facilities for environment and social impact that would otherwise be undetected.

In Iraq, gas flares at Rumalia Oil Field pose serious economic, environmental and health risks. Massive gas flaring wastes the nation’s resources every day, and the acid rain, sulfur dioxide and fine soot particles harm human and livestock health, as well as damage the land.

Planet Labs curates galleries of images for monitoring global development. It “makes global change visible, accessible and actionable for those who need it most.” Providing universal access is one of Planet Labs’ missions, all of which are at affordable costs.

– Lin Sabones

Sources: Planet Labs, Planet Labs, Planet Labs, CNN
Photo: Andrew Zolli

For a variety of reasons, China has become known for its “interactiveness” with the global south. This “interactiveness” has included construction projects, student scholarships, and sending  doctors.

Recently, China began to fund five research centers in Africa and the global south in order to increase collaboration between Chinese and African scientists. The topics of focus for the scientists will include the climate, water, environmentally friendly technology, biotechnology, and space technology.

Using the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), $6.5 million will be distributed to the research centers over the course of the next three years. These funds will work to improve China’s soft power in the global south by conducting joint research projects between the CAS and the research centers.

Currently, there is a CAS network known as The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) that will also benefit from this Chinese outreach to the global south. Along with the research projects, the funding will also provide for an increase in workshops, training, and PhD programs.

According to Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa and a TWAS member, “The five centers will play an important role in global scientific collaboration by increasing South-South training opportunities.”

This collaboration is expected to increase climate change research. Yongqiang Liu, a research meteorologist at the USDA Forest Service’s Center for Forest Disturbance Science sees it as a good way to “prepare future leaders to lead climate change research for developing countries.”

Action through research investment should improve China’s image in the world. Currently, China stands at 50% favorable and 36% unfavorable among populaces from around the world. Comparably, the US was seen as favorable by 63%, and unfavorable by 30%. More specifically, when people were asked if they thought China considered their country’s interests, 27% thought a great deal with 63% saying either not too much or not at all.

There is still a great deal of room for China to improve its international appeal. By working with developing nations to improve research in sustainable technology and other important sciences, China can build off the work of TWAS and foster support from citizens in these countries.

Once the three years comes to an end, the education and collaboration should improve the environmental technology sector, as well as build the capacity for a future scientific community with various projects and goals. If successful, this move may be beneficial in regards to China’s popularity as well.

– Michael Carney
Sources: SciDev.Net, Pew Global