Breathtaking landscapes. Unfathomable mysteries. Nature thrills our hearts and calls us to adventure. Earth is a precious miracle, billions of years in the making. Now the natural world is under threat. Wild and beautiful places are disappearing fast. Sixteen million hectares of natural forest destroyed every year. One-third of all coral threatened with extinction. Glaciers melting, sea levels rising. This isn’t a movie. this is real. It’s time to step forward and find out what’s happening. It’s time to listen to the adventurers on the front lines. We search the globe for these behind-the-scenes Eco heroes passionate about protecting the planet and securing a sustainable future. What drives them to “save the beyond”? We travel to Hawaii, the home of our ecohero, Greg Asner. Global ecologist and earth explorer Greg Asner takes ecology to the air. He created a one-of-a-kind airplane equipped with high-powered lasers, imaging spectrometers and supercomputers that enable him to create highly accurate 3D maps of ecosystems. From the Amazon Rainforest to Hawaiian coral reefs, Dr. Asner’s innovative technologies play a key role in monitoring the impacts of climate change at scales never before possible. What drives him to save the beyond? In the past 25 years, my career has changed from studying an ecosystem to almost a reactive, responsive type role. And it is generated, by the way,
enormous stress in my team. We’re undergoing change, the change is rapid, we can’t get our hands around it. We need to understand what the change is and what its impacts are going to be for us. For their biodiversity, or their carbon, or the water, or whatever it is. We have really worked hard to develop science and technology as a combination to generate this scalability of our knowledge, and we use a variety of techniques. Field instrumentation deployed in an array. We use high tech aircraft to get measurements that can’t be made on the ground. And we use satellites to support all of that process. We invented a technique called Laser-Guided Imaging Spectroscopy. As we fly over, we fire two laser beams from the bottom of the plane, and those laser beams are sweeping back-and-forth. That laser beam penetrates the forest’s canopy. And every time that one laser shot touches something that’s vegetative, it returns a few of the photons. And we digitize that entire process. Long story short, we figured out how to turn these spectral signatures into identifications of species. We are not keeping up, as a society, with the changes that we are actually inducing onto ecosystems. Whether they’re ecosystems close to us, or faraway in the Amazon basin. They’re all changing very fast. We put ourselves into this predicament of cutting down too much forest Changing the landscapes of the world so fast that we’re actually causing major climatic advance and change. To get out of this, we’re going to need to use every resource we can come up with. And one of the key resources is in tropical forests. You know, there are only a few ecosystems on the planet that hosts most of the species of the planet. Rainforests are one of them. They not only protect a huge amount of the earth’s biodiversity, but they regulate some of the critical functions of the entire earth system. Especially carbon and water. To remove the Amazon forests disrupts the entire climate system. For everyone. What can we do to save tropical rainforests? It starts with each of us. The products we use, the activities we undertake, often can be traced all the way back to resources that are taken out of tropical rainforests. Even if we’re living far in the north or south from the tropics, the product lines, the commodities, the trade that occurs. So much of that is coming out of tropical forest regions. We need to be aware of it. We need to start playing our individual and collective roles to reduce the demand so that we incentivize more conservation in tropical regions. There’s definitely an urgency to act now. Time is of the essence. We have to make these changes now, and we need the science and technology
to underpin those decisions. We continue our search of the globe for ecoheroes. Shedding light on their vital work. Inspiring each and every one of us to become heroes too. Together we have the power to save the beyond.