Sites Aided by Space
Space agencies, space organizations, and the private sector are using technology to help United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conserve World Heritage sites under an agreement between 187 states reached at the World Heritage Convention.
Currently, there are 911 unique World Heritage sites includes Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and the Great Wall of China. Of these, 704 are classified as cultural, 180 as natural, and 27 as mixed. However, at least 31 World Heritage sites are in danger, UNESCO officials say.
Initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA), UNESCO intends to protect these World Heritage sites from threat. Due to developmental pressures and insufficient resources, these sites have suffered from a lack of management, unsustainable tourism, looting, natural disasters, and climate change. By using space technologies, UNESCO can monitor the damage that has been done over the years and recommend ways to remedy it.
In 2001, the International Astronautical Congress, UNESCO, and the ESA convened to demonstrate that space technologies and Earth observations are beneficial tools worldwide. Throughout the years, organizers have been able to encourage 53 space agencies to join the cause.
This goal, called the Open Initiative, “aims to develop a framework of co-operation, open to space agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector in order to assist developing countries, through, space technologies to improve their natural and cultural conservation activities.”
Space technologies allow us to monitor cultural and natural sites, then compare the satellite images to see how they have progressed over time. Similarly, the resolution of satellite images creates accurate and detailed maps. Developing regions lack adequate maps and therefore cannot protect their borders.
Satellite imaging also can be used as a powerful communication tool. Instead of describing what kind of damage is occurring in a particular region, authorities can provide accurate photographs. These images are then analyzed and possible solutions can be offered.
Another mission for the Open Initiative is to strengthen the local staff involved at each World Heritage site. To do this, the goal is to initiate joint projects between the staff and their respective country, organize workshops, have standards and regulations for funding, and coordinate training for the staff.
A further goal of the Open Initiative is to strengthen the local staff’s progress, and strengthen the younger generation’s efforts. By encouraging children to observe, understand, participate, and learn, they will grow to appreciate natural and cultural sites. The long-term effects of this encouragement will be stronger hope for conservation efforts as well as a deeper understanding of culture. The UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development as well as UNESCO has pushed forward for this project, aimed at children between the ages of 12 and 15.
UNESCO has previously been highlighted by Earthzine in its efforts to encourage the younger generation to become more involved in learning about the Earth. From the “United Nations Decade for Education and Sustainable Development”, Bernard Combes states, “The Decade aims to integrate the values inherent in sustainable development into all aspects of learning in order to encourage changes in behavior conducive to a more sustainable and just society for all.”
The target areas include poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods, climate change, gender equality, corporate social responsibility and protection of indigenous cultures. By instilling these concepts at a younger age, the program is able to empower students with knowledge for the future.
An example of such a program organized by Education for Sustainable Development and launched in 2000 is the Swiss International Teachers’ Program. This program, called STIP, allows elementary and secondary level teachers to use software that simulates managing a fictitious country. These teachers, ranging from Brazil to South Africa, bring the skills learned from this program back into their own classrooms to educate their students.