‘Safeguarding Amazonia’ Wintersession workshop addressed deforestation and technology

Written by
Pooja Makhijani, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS)
Feb. 12, 2021

Amazon river meandering through a rainforest

The “Safeguarding Amazonia” workshop was one of the highlights of Princeton University’s first Wintersession. Organized by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) Brazil LAB and the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI), the workshop introduced participants to the innovative mapping technology developed by MapBiomas, a network of Brazilian scientific institutions, civil-society groups and startups.

The Brazilian environmentalist Tasso Azevedo, coordinator of MapBiomas, opened the week-long workshop Jan. 18 with a public session live-streamed on the Brazil LAB YouTube Channel. Speaking from São Paulo, Azevedo highlighted the importance of creatively mobilizing technology, local knowledges and visual evidence to fight for environmental justice and to promote the conservation and stewardship of natural resources.

“Safeguarding Amazonia” provided instruction on using machine learning, cloud computing and network collaboration to produce large-scale, fine-resolution multi-temporal maps and analyses of land cover and land use, with a particular focus on the Amazon. The sessions also explored how civil society, business and policymakers use such visual evidence to advocate for equality and conservation. Participants learned how to produce their own land-cover maps and analyses from satellite images.

Paola Gabriela Villa Paro, a pre-doctoral student in the Department of Economics, also participated because she thought that the techniques she would learn in the workshop could be useful for her future research. “A historical map visualization of some regions in Latin America could be a great way to understand urban mobility and indigenous displacements,” she said. “Google Earth Engine is an open and powerful tool to get real data from satellite records. That encouraged my initial research ideas about displacements, so I hope to put my hands on the code again in the near future!”

Read more about the session and its participants on the High Meadows Environmental Institute website.