How Smart Phones are Saving the Rainforest

Your old cell phone will know help fight deforestation
Your old cell phone will know help fight deforestation | © stokpic / Pixabay
Photo of Brandon Dupre
13 June 2018

Next time you get a new phone, there’s more you can do with your old phone than just throwing it away in the trash or putting it in a drawer never to be seen again. Rainforest Connection is a program that collects old phones to help fight illegal logging in the world’s forests. Here’s a look at how donated devices are saving the Amazon and other rainforests across the globe.

Topher White has spent many hours walking through forests across the world. As the founder of Rainforest Connection (based out of San Francisco), White couldn’t ignore deforestation concerns throughout his global travels, noting how persistently difficult it is for government and local communities to stop the rapid destruction caused by illegal logging. So White came up with an idea to use cellphones to listen in and locate the loggers.

The rainforests help keep down carbon dioxide levels and reduce global warming | © blackend464 / Pixabay

White achieved this by attaching the cellphones to solar panels with a microphone and placing them in the rainforest’s canopy. Once the phone detects chainsaw noise, it sends a message with a location to local authorities who can then pinpoint and reprehend the illegal loggers. Each phone has nearly a mile radius, so cellphones need to be placed all over the forest. Phone donations are therefore enormously helpful, reducing the need to purchase more phones in order to meet the large quantities and simultaneously recycling electronic waste to further protect the environment.

90 % of logging that goes on in tropical rainforests is illegal | © Skitterphoto / Pixabay

Illegal deforestation is one of the primary causes of climate change. The earth loses 18.7 million acres of forests annually, equivalent to 27 soccer fields every minute, and—according to the UN—up to 90% of logging in tropical rainforests is illegal. White hopes to bring his technology to more local governments and communities to help them defend their forests from the indiscriminate chainsaws that are tearing them down.

Communities across the glob and now fight against rainforest destruction | © deltreehd / Pixabay

Even older, regular model cellphones can perform this simple function, so any type of phone can be donated to Rainforest Connection. Despite common belief, even the remote reaches of the jungle can get cell service depending on the provider. This allows White and his non-profit to defend the distant reaches of the Amazon. After receiving the phones, each community can maintain their own devices and therefore function autonomously.

The cellphones have the added bonus of listening in on the local bird populations to give experts more accurate understanding of their patterns and population numbers. Cells can also pick up on motorcycle, car, and gunfire sounds, which is a system used in Africa and other regions to protect against poachers. By donating your old phone, you can contribute to protecting endangered species, saving the world’s forests, and ending global warming.

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