How old cellphones listen to forests to stop illegal logging

How old cellphones listen to forests to stop illegal logging

How attaching your smartphone to a tree could save entire rainforests.

Beautiful News - How sound can save the rainforest
Supplied, Beautiful News

If a tree falls in the forest, Topher White makes sure people hear it. Illegal logging is a leading contributor to deforestation and subsequently climate change. But White is enabling South American communities around forests to detect and stop illegal logging – with an old cellphone. 

White founded the non-profit Rainforest Connection, which uses smartphones as listening devices. Attached with a powerful microphone and solar panels, they are placed in the tops of trees. The phones detect the sounds of trees being cut down and send data in real-time to rangers using the RFCx Ranger app. On their first test run in 2012, White’s invention proved so successful that they apprehended illegal loggers within 48 hours of turning the phone on. 

Empowering local communities around heavily forested areas gives them the opportunity to defend their homes. “There’s a lot of people on the ground in the forest who would stop deforestation if they could,” White says. “We figured that one of the most important tools is making them aware of where it is, fast enough to get there.”

Trees are one of the best protections the world has against carbon emissions and air pollution. By equipping people with the tools to preserve forests, White is creating a network of guardians. Anyone can make a contribution, donate their old cellphones to the project, or download the app and hear the soundtrack of the rainforest. “We have to find a way to coexist with wild places,” White says. “The only way that we can survive into the distant future is to make sure there’s more nature around us.” 

Footage by Rainforest Connection was used in the creation of this film.

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