September 2019
Welcome to the seventh edition of our newsletter highlighting innovation and frontier technologies around the globe. At MapX, we believe that nobody should be left behind in the digital revolution. Join us monthly to learn about new global initiatives harnessing technology for the sustainable use of natural resources, citizen science opportunities, upcoming webinars or trainings, and open source solutions. If you have stories you want to share, contact us here.

The promise and peril of a digital ecosystem for the planet

Dear readers,

As you know, at MapX we are passionate about applying emerging technologies to the frontlines of environmental sustainability. The below article, written by David Jensen and Jillian Campbell of UN Environment, outlines a way forward to building a digital ecosystem for the environment.  In order to spread this message widely, we need your help. Please consider sharing the article on social media or through your email networks so we can engage more stakeholders who can help achieve a vision of digital cooperation for environmental good. 

Thanks for considering this request!

Frontier technologies could be harnessed to identify environmental crises earlier and inform decision making. AI, for example, could help drive a revolution in sustainability and the global management of natural resources, but the use of frontier technologies also presents some risks. 

 A new article by the United Nations Environment Programme explores the promises and perils of a digital ecosystem for the planet. It also urges all stakeholders to come together and develop a digital ecosystem of data, infrastructure, algorithms, and insights that would provide actionable evidence on our collective progress towards sustainable development goals.

The piece, written in collaboration with many experts from the tech sector and other domains, seeks to spark a global conversation around the need for a planetary dashboard to monitor our critical natural resources and ecosystem services at the global, national and local levels. Read more here.   

News / Highlights

Fires burning in the state of Pará, Brazil, on Aug. 20, 2019. Planet Labs Inc. 
Source: Planet Labs Inc.

What Can Global Forest Watch Tell Us About the Fires in Brazil?

The thousands of fires burning in the Brazilian Amazon received global attention recently, both in the media and online, where the hashtag #prayforamazonia earned more than 150,000 mentions in one day. What can satellite data tell us about what is really happening in Brazil’s forests?   This article uses imagery from NASA, available on Global Forest Watch, to extract insights about what is happening in Brazil. Most fires are linked to human activity, and Brazil had 39% more fires between January and August 2019 than in the same period in 2018.  Read more insights here.

An aerial view of part of Iceland. Photo by Anders Jildén. Source: Microsoft
A shift in perspective: Taking a new view on water security through technology

The Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES and Africa) is a continental initiative designed to support and enable the implementation of the African Space Policy and Strategy, initiated by the African Union Commission, by way of addressing the needs of African countries in terms of access to and utilisation of Earth Observation (EO) data for the implementation of sustainable development policies on the continent. It supports the management of the environment and natural resources, as well as monitoring of humanitarian operations in Africa. The program is jointly funded by the European Union to the tune of 30 million Euros. Part of the first phase of GMES and Africa focuses on is Water & Natural Resources, as well as marine and coastal areas. Read more here.

Source: Geospatial world website

Using LiDAR in disaster response

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is using LiDAR high-resolution elevation imagery to help emergency responders during the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, is a surveying method that measures distance to a particular target by illuminating the target with pulsed laser light and measuring the reflected pulses with a sensor. LiDAR can be used to generate detailed maps of topography and retrieve digital elevation data. Use of LiDAR in disaster response is gaining ground since visualization of the point cloud data allows emergency responders to easily identify areas most affected by a calamity. Read more here.

Source: Esri  ArcGIS blog- Dan Pisut
Understand hurricane forecasts and impacts with the Hurricane Aware Application

The newly released Hurricane Aware app from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World can help people answer critical questions about incoming hurricane. When faced with the threat of an imminent hurricane, people in affected areas need to know the answers to these questions: Is the storm going to hit here? When will weather conditions start to deteriorate? Will I need to evacuate? Who else will be affected? Leveraging the Active Hurricanes layer from Living Atlas, Hurricane Aware provides the most recent forecast information for all hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons around the world from the National Hurricane Center and Joint Typhoon Warning Center.  Learn the details about the application here.  

Source: UNDP DRC
UNDP takes next step in harnessing power of digital with online global dialogue

Emerging technologies have the potential to accelerate sustainable development and transform the lives of millions of poor and vulnerable people. However, when it comes to adopting digital technologies at scale for the benefit of these populations, the challenges and concerns are big. To spearhead the conversation on the breakthrough digital ideas that could exponentially help in fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, UNDP today launched an online global dialogue. Through interactive dialogue, the consultation site provides an opportunity for UNDP’s donors, development partners, stakeholders, researchers and citizens of the world interested in digital technology, to present ideas on how technology can be applied to provide solutions to current development challenges in their countries and be replicated globally. Read more here.

Scientific Corner 

Call for papers on Special Issue 'Environmental sustainability with Remote Sensing in Africa'

Journal: ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing

Anhropogenic activities and climate change have altered the environment profoundly, and Africa has been more vulnerable due to lack of sustainable mitigation measures in place. The success of environmental management and protection lies in the availability of adequate information to support intervention measures by decision makers. Developments in remote sensing, particularly the recent sensors with high resolution (spatial, spectral and temporal) and freely available creates a great opportunity for Africa to use such data. for improved resource management and a stride towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In order to promote earth observation research in Africa, this theme is dedicated to relevant scientific contributions that addresses environmental problems facing Africa using remote sensing. The special issue focuses on innovative methods and applications of remote sensing to address a myriad of environmental problems at different spatial scales in Africa. Details can be found here.  


“Environmental Crimes” thematic call

Environmental crimes are illegal acts that directly harm the environment. The European Space Agency’s “Environmental Crimes” thematic call offers support and funding to companies looking to develop services that tackle environmental crimes using satellite technology in two ways: 

1. Directly preventing environmental crimes such as illegal trade and smuggling from occurring, by working with stakeholders in law enforcement. 

2. Helping industries to prove that they are compliant with environmental regulations, and therefore not committing environmental crimes.  

The call will be organized in three sub-calls, namely “Environmental Quality”, “Poaching and trafficking” and “Natural Resources”. This call for Kick-start Activities is open to companies that intend to develop space-enabled applications and services that help to solve the issue of environmental crimes. Read more here.


  • 21/08/2019, 15:00 CEST - Environmental Quality (Opening date 02/09/2019, Closing date 11/10/2019)

  • 10/10/2019, 15:00 CEST - Poaching and Trafficking (Opening date 14/10/2019, Closing date 30/11/2019)

  • 27/11/2019, 15:00 CET - Natural Resources (Opening date 02/12/2019, Closing date 24/01/2020) 

Register Now

5th International Conference on GIS and Remote Sensing (GIS Congress 2019) invites all the participants across the globe during September 16-17, 2019 Rome, Italy. The relatively novel nature of the conference and its relevance to the current GIS market makes this summit an event to look forward to for all individuals of the GIS Congress 2019 community.

The theme of the GIS Congress 2019 is “Implementation and Advancement of GIS and Remote Sensing Techniques” with an objective to help Geologists, Geo-Scientists, Professors & Students to move beyond the boundaries of conventional yet ever-changing concepts marketing a
ConferenceSeries Ltd  invites adapt to the principles of digital marketing.

Register Now
What is MapX?

Data has become the world’s most valuable and powerful resource. MapX supports the sustainable use of natural resources by increasing access to the best available geospatial data, technology, and monitoring tools. Backed by the impartiality and integrity of the UN, MapX is the first non-commercial platform that can power a variety of applications and websites with the best available environmental data as part of a global public good. MapX was developed by UN Environment and GRID-Geneva in partnership with the World Bank and UNDP.

We look forward to bringing you the best updates of 2019!

UN Environment
Contact Us
Newsletter writer: Xiaoyang Li
Please send your news alert for us to feature:

Copyright © 2019 UN Environment Crisis Management Branch, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email because you opted in when signing up to the Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace MOOC or signed up on the MapX website.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.