Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How Old Cell Phones Are Protecting the Rainforest

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We have to climb up these trees to save them.

It's easily 150-200 feet up the tree.

At the top, we listen to all sounds of the forest to pick up the sounds of illegal logging.

Illegal logging is an extremely profitable business, it is the most profitable way to

extract resources from the forest, there's many, many 10s of billions of dollars that

are made every year by organizations extracting illegal wood, very very valuable wood from

the forest.

The destruction of forests leads to more carbon output than all the cars, trucks,

trains, ships, planes combined.

Of course the species that are there are very important too.

The impact of the illegal logging and deforestation is very different in different places, but

it's very, very rare that logging actually helps a local community in any sort of long

term sense, whether it be Indonesia, or Africa or South America.

Every time logging comes in, the forest disappears, there's a loss of livelihood.

There's a loss of rain and water.

There's a loss of, you know, food supplies, and also anytime that there's a lack of law

and order and place where illegal logging is able to generally thrive is not a good sign.

This all kind of began in 2011 when I visited the rainforests of Borneo for the first time,

to volunteer at a gibbon reserve in Indonesia.

And while we were there, we kind of noticed that they had these guards, these three guards

whose job was to help protect this small reserve from illegal logging.

And in fact there was lots of illegal logging happening on the outskirts all the time.

While there, we realized that these guards are having to walk through the forest and to sort

of find the loggers.

And my background in technology and physics kind of made me feel like I had to be able

to build a tool that could help them find the loggers more quickly, and react.

When people think about how to monitor a place. we often think of it visually, because you

know we're visual creatures, but when you're in the forest you realize that so much of

the sound really is the essence of those there.

You can't see more than 20 feet in front of you because there's trees, it's dark.

But you can hear things happening just miles away.

There's the sound of gibbons, the sounds of birds, the sounds of insects. It's all just deafening.

There's just this constant cacophony of noise.

And when you're there that sort of informs you have what's happening in the forest.

You can't see a chainsaw that's happening a mile away but you can hear the sounds they

travel very well from the trees.

It was really kind of almost biomimicry to say, how are the animals themselves making

themselves known how are they communicating? It's with sound.

That could be a way by which we can pick out the sounds of threats as well.

I had some old phones I figured I could sort of hack them together to listen to the sound

of the forest and pick up the sounds of chainsaws to send alerts to these people so they can

actually get there in time.

So the Rainforest Connection system, the RFCS platform, really is a full sort of end-to-end type solution.

It all begins we'll probably call a Guardian, which are ostensibly phones and boxes up

in the treetops.

So this is the Rainforest Connection Guardian.

Of course you have this enclosure on the outside, you have a microphone.

It's a very powerful microphone.

It allows us to pick up sounds very, very far away.

On the inside, here's some batteries actually that helps us harness all the solar power.

We have solar panels so they can last for years, they charge themselves in the daytime and

they run 24 hours a day.

And then of course they have attachments for external antennas we can pick up cell phone

service from many, many miles away.

They capture all the sound of the forest, they package it up and send it up to the cloud

in real time over the cellphone network.

So, once it's in the cloud, we can run any number of artificial intelligence models on


You pick up chainsaws gunshots, trucks, and then in real time we can take those alerts

and send the right back to people on the ground through the software that we built, called the Ranger App

into these web dashboards.

So local people, they're able to get these alerts, collaborate through the software, and show

up in real time if they can to stop the activity.

We think that real time response is potentially the key to de-escalating these events.

What often keeps people from stopping these activities is the danger involved.

But if you can stop the truck on the way in,

you don't necessarily need to confiscate the truck, you don't necessarily need to arrest

anybody you can turn it around and ship it out.

The same is true in many cases if you stopped them just when they're beginning to cut a

tree or cut only one.

Phones from 11 years ago, 2008, 2009, they still can do so much.

This phone here it has GPS, it's got accelerometers, it can tell you where it's positioned it can

record all the sound, it can connect to all these cell phone networks, it can compress

audio extremely well, it can send it all up to the cloud.

This is an amazing little Internet of Things computer.

The only way to protect the natural world, is to get the rest of humanity to care about it.

I think the sound of our living planet might be the most powerful vector for me to protect it.

And the only way to do that is to get many thousands of these sensors out there 10s of

thousands of Guardians around the world streaming all the time making that data available to

scientists, enthusiasts, bird watchers, students through accessible and easy platforms.

I believe at this point in time where we have these amazing networks around the world.

We have a system like ours that can record and capture stuff from

the cloud. We have cloud computing to be able to look at,

big data sets that really pull things out.

And we have AI, all these things coming together, I think, is really a turning point potentially

where sound becomes one of the most important ways for us to study and protect nature.

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