| FROM THE editor |
Remote j ustice
It almost seems like an inbuilt human imperative to find a high spot and look down on the world – from climbing a tree to climbing a mountain, from observation towers to helicopter joy flights, we’re constantly seeking a vertical view of the land around us. The popularity of the Britain from the Air exhibition currently on show in Bath is just another example of this fascination.
The development of artificial satellites during the latter half of the 20th century gave us an unprecedented platform for looking down on the Earth from above. Improvements in the resolution of satelliteborne cameras and the development of an array of different sensors for measuring different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation turned remote sensing into an incredibly powerful technique for learning about our landscapes.
Perhaps inevitably, this technology was adapted for use by governments to spy on one another. But now, we civilians are turning the tables and using the same technology to spy on governments, among others – but for the most admirable reasons.
On page 30, Geographical’s staff writer, Olivia Edward, writes about the various groups that are using remote sensing to identify and investigate human rights and environmental abuses around the globe. The increasing availability and resolution of civilian satellite imagery is enabling these groups to gain detailed information about incidents that would have been hidden from view in the past, either by the remoteness of their locations or the risks involved in bearing witness to them.
It’s an ingenious use of a technology that has previously been monopolised by the scientific community and the military. However, as one of the researchers quoted in the story points out, if this work is going to be effective, it’s important that someone acts on the findings and brings the perpetrators of abuse to justice. Otherwise, all it’s doing it highlighting the fact that said perpetrators can act without fear of retribution.
WHO SAID THAT? ‘On our very first day, we were expected to suck out the contents of our own stomachs with a tube’ Find out on page 82
SOME OF THIS MONTH’S CONTRIBUTORS
US photographer Peter DiCampo encountered the Kayayo girls, who migrate from their rural villages to work as city street porters (page 50), while volunteering on a health project in northern Ghana.‘Nearly every woman from this part of the country goes south to work in the markets at least once,’ he says. He was struck by how joyful the Kayayo seemed, despite their tough working conditions. ‘The girls were extremely light-hearted much of the time, always laughing and joking with each other. It challenged my preconceptions of what poverty is’
When British adventurer Bill Colegrave set out to find the source of the
Oxus River (page 44), his biggest concern was the fact that he suﬀered from vertigo. ‘[It’s] not just a matter of the fear of falling,’ he explains.‘[More] an emptiness and powerlessness that overtakes the psyche; suddenly, the mountain seems to be beside you, and on top of you, actively pressing you out, into the void.’ Bill still managed to solve the mystery of the Oxus’s source, and thrilled in the grandeur of the Wakhan Corridor – a high altitude valley ‘on the outer limits of geography’
Having spent two and a half years working in the Antarctic as a meteorologist,
British explorer Felicity Aston is always keen to return, and in 2009, she led the largest and most internationally diverse women’s expedition to ski to the South Pole (page 69). The women came from countries ranging from India to Ghana, but, Felicity says, ‘When you strip everything away, it’s the similarities that strike you, rather than the diﬀerences.’ Her advice for would-be expedition leaders is ‘persevere’. ‘It took two years to organise this expedition, but our tenacity paid oﬀ in the end’
VOLUME 83 NO 1 _ _ _
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4 www.geographical.co.uk JANUARY 2011