Summer  >>  2007  

Digital Earth Provides Solid Platform for Various Significant Projects

Don't miss the letters
to the editor

Dear Reader,

This issue is particularly special for the Imaging Notes team; its publication coincides with the 5th International Symposium on Digital Earth (ISDE5). As a major sponsor of this conference, Imaging Notes signals its strong support of the goals of the conference—that “any citizen of the planet, linked through the Internet, should be able to freely access a virtual world of information and knowledge resources.”

The following three articles are on topics that will be presented at ISDE5. The first is publisher Myrna Yoo's interview with Hervé Buchwalter, CEO of Spot Image about Spot's “Planet Action” initiative. The goal of the initiative is to create an online “Planet Action Exchange” to address climate change. Spot is actively seeking other partners in this exciting venture.

Ray Williamson is the editor of Imaging Notes
Similarly, Dan Stillman's article on climate change reminds us about the critical role that high-resolution satellites play in documenting and understanding those changes.

The second subject to be presented at ISDE5 deals with one of the biggest problems that has faced the remote sensing community in the past: How to get useful data to the end user, the individual or organization that would take the imagery and make something more out of it than simply an observable backdrop. As Rebecca Moore illustrates, the advent of Google Earth truly has brought the data to millions of new users who would never have gone near an image-processing or GIS program. Her article shows how Google Earth can be put to use to assist humanitarian, environmental, and biodiversity interests around the world.

Lars Bromley explores these themes in additional detail in his penetrating article about the program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to assist human rights organizations in making effective use of the powerful high-resolution data that are now available from commercial satellites in this third story from ISDE5. He is working with Amnesty International, which is also launching a new effort, “Eyes on Darfur” at ISDE5.

Theresa Hitchens' article highlights the concern many of us feel about the increasing amount of orbital debris circling our planet Earth. It is of particular concern to all who depend upon data from low Earth orbit satellites, which is most of us. I also address this in my Policy Watch column on the next page.

In other columns, Tim Foresman offers a view “through the looking glass,” uniting his own prophetic vision of the future with those of other creative thinkers in the Digital Earth orbit. Creative thinking continues in Craig Bachmann & Natasha Lèger's NextGen Mapping column on digital mashups that are creating new ways to assist customers of Earth observations data.

Finally, in the guest editorial spot, three of the authors of the famed “Decadal Survey,” Bill Gail, Neal Lane and Molly Macauley make a plea for a new U.S. information strategy—one that energizes the civil community to do some serious strategic planning and coordination for ensuring the future of our Earth observation capabilities.

–Ray Williamson

Letters to the Editor

This is the most useful information source of its kind anywhere. Keep up the great work!

– Roy Smith, Melody Farms in Hawaii


I have found your issues of Imaging Notes to be very clear and wide in scope. They are useful to a diversity of readers and agricultural scientists in research and applied areas dealing with regional development.

– Julio Henao, IFDC


Having worked for the government for 35 years in geospatial, imagery, and mapping areas, and then moving to the commercial sector, I firmly believe that the private sector needs to be educated about how commercial imagery can enhance their decision making processes and be used to increase bottom line profits.

– Donald Smith, Program Manager, Computer Science Corporation


This note is a call to all “Earth doctors” who may have missed Dr. Timothy Foresman's column in the Summer 2006 edition. In medical education, physicians learn that the skin is the largest organ. “It is closely associated with the underlying structures, from which and through which it receives its nutrition, and because of its location, it is in intimate relation with the external environment” (Robbins, 1974).

In his article, “Udo's World: The Remote Sensing Community's Transgenerational Responsibility,” Dr. Foresman leads us to this important and revolutionary analogy. While the dermatologist has long employed direct and total view of our body's skin, it is only now that we can enjoy analogous access to Earth's surface. Like our physicians, we investigate the total body Earth, gauging her health by the observed condition of her skin. If you believe the health of your own body is important, would you consider addressing the distress of your mother Earth? We now have the capability to do so.

– John R. Schmidt, M.S., President, NCAD Corporation

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