Indigenous Groups Using High-Tech To Fight Land Grabs

Leaders from 17 countries recently met in Sumatra to discuss how handheld GPS devices and mapping apps have helped their communities retain lands held for generations.

What's the Latest Development?

Earlier this week, leaders from indigenous communities in 17 countries including Brazil, Nepal and Malaysia met in Sumatra for the Global Conference on Community Participatory Mapping on Indigenous Peoples' Territories. While there, participants shared how modern mapping technology has helped them catalog lands and natural resources that have been in their care for hundreds or even thousands of years. With the help of these tools, they hope to launch a global fight to defend their lands against the encroachment of governments and private companies.

What's the Big Idea?

Indonesia, with its 2,200 indigenous communities totaling 50 million people, demonstrates on a large scale the challenges involved in preserving boundaries: Steady conversion of traditional forest to plantation, as granted by the government to corporations, has led both to displacement of indigenous peoples and land disputes -- more than 280 as of 2012 -- that have occasionally turned violent. The subsequent cultural, economic and environmental losses make defining maps even more important, says conference co-organizer Vicky Tauli-Corpuz: "These maps successfully demonstrate what we already know: that indigenous peoples are the best custodians of their forests and lands."

javarman /

Read it at

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less