View environmental hotspots with Google Earth

Mountain View (CA) - With the increased interest in global warming and environmental issues, Google and the United Nations are reminding people that environmental hotspots can be viewed inside of the free Google Earth program. Back in September the UN struck a deal with Google to allow picture overlays which show drastic changes in terrain, vegetation and sea levels in environmental problem areas. Now the United Nations is seeking similar graphics help from other companies like Microsoft and Oracle.

Last September Google Earth users could start viewing locations that were originally only shown in the United Nations Environment Programme book "Atlas of Our Changing World". If you have Google Earth installed, you can turn on the pictures by going to "Layers" then "Primary Database" and "Featured Content". Click on the "UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing Environment" checkbox you'll see blue and black boxes dotting problem areas around the globe.

You can bring up additional information and overlay pictures by clicking on the boxes. Most areas show stages of environment damage that can be viewed in stages with satellite pictures that range from a few years to a couple decades old.

Among some of the more notable hotspots are Isahaya Bay in Japan and Mount Paektusan in North Korea. The Japanese reclaimed farmland by blocking off the bay and filling in the marshlands with sand. Google Earth shows the dramatic before and after pictures. The pictures for Mount Paektusan show extreme deforestation in the area, especially on the North Korean side.