As it was for all of us, 2020 was a challenging time for ASAP. Grants we expected to receive were understandably diverted to help Covid patients. We are now able to move forward with force because a number of concerned scientists and conservationists have jumped in to help us on our journey of stewardship, restoration, and recovery.
The drivers of extinction are mounting through species invasion, habitat destruction, and climate change. The most immediate drivers of biodiversity loss are extractive industries, often operating outside the rule of law. Illegal logging and mining, land seizure, encroachment on protected lands, and industrial scale poaching of wildlife, often driven by organized criminal syndicates, are responsible for substantial harm. Too often knowledge of the event comes only after the crime has been committed and the damage done.
Existing methods are not enough. While remote sensing from satellites contributes substantially to our understanding of the complex webs of relationships that we call ecosystems, there are technical limitations. To go deeply, and get very granular data about the environment around us, we need the ability to get under the clouds, to get close, to linger. This is what ASAP does.
• An elephant butchered for its ivory is spotted by an airplane. A search is then launched to find the killers.
• A gold mine is detected by a satellite in the Amazon. Pictures show that tons of poisons are being released into a nearby river.
• A fire spotted in the Amazon, already been burning for 3 days, is now out of control.
ASAP will change the outcome of these scenarios. We can do this because we stay aloft for a week or more, linger for days and cover not hundreds but tens of thousand square miles on each mission. We are constantly sending live video and data streams night and day, from vast remote areas to decision-makers getting them timely, actionable information enabling them to prevent the crime before it happens. When ASAP is operating:
• The poachers are apprehended upon entering the park and the elephant was never in danger.
• The gold miners are apprehended as soon as they set up camp, before they start mining. The river was never polluted.
• The fire was contained because it was spotted before it had a chance to spread.
ASAP is a system for transformative conservation. Combined with our on-the-ground network of local experts, we utilize the latest science and technology to produce images and collect highly granular data across large swaths of the landscape. This allows us to see the landscape with new eyes, in a way that was never done before.
This knowledge we gain advances science and creates what ASAP Science Adviser Dr. Jamie K. Reaser calls an "overview effect”*, a cognitive shift in the way that we see things. The overview effect allows people to reframe perceptions of the world in a way that helps us to collectively engage in the decisions that society must make in the face of the threats we face from global change forces.
I would like to invite you to join us on our journey into this new and exciting frontier, a journey of restoration and recovery.