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Proceedings of the Symposium on Global and Environmental Monitoring

significant challenges. Effective environmental management on a global scale raises
substantial issues of technology, policy, and economics [Raney and Specter, 1989]. This
paper is concerned with the pivotal role of remote sensing data policy. It is our contention
that remotely sensed information will have little impact on environmental management at
the global scale without a change in the current data policy, or in the way that the cost of
such data is underwritten by appropriate international agreements.
Passive and Active Environmental Monitoring
The first step is to recognize two legitimate roles of environmental monitoring:
observation (passive monitoring); and intervention (active monitoring). Perhaps the largest
and best known example of the first type is the Earth Observing System (EOS) of NASA
[NASA, 1984], a $30 billion dollar effort to provide and interpret data from a variety of
remote Earth sensors intended to start operation after launch in 1997. The objective of
EOS is to observe, catalogue, analyze, and eventually to understand the environmental
systems of the Earth. It is a legitimate scientific exercise of observation.
The second role of environmental monitoring is to inform and assess regional and
global efforts aimed at intervention on environmentally sensitive issues. One example of
this type of active environmental monitoring [INPE, 1990] is the use of radar (RADAM-
Brazil), AVHRR, and Landsat-TM by the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE).
The remotely sensed data was used to motivate and implement the national initiative "Our
Nature", a program designed to shape national preservation policies for the country’s natural
resources. It is intended to provide ongoing observations for the purpose of actively
monitoring changes in Amazonia, and for guiding intervention and preservation programs.
Technology and Data Policy
Although active intervention on global environmental issues is not yet uniformly
accepted as a necessity, there is a growing consensus in that direction. For effective
environmental management to become a reality, active environmental monitoring will have
to be widely adopted [World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987]. This
requires that supporting systems and infra-structures be in place. There are two classes of
issues to be satisfied before meaningful global environmental monitoring can be
implemented: those of technology (data transformation); and those of policy (data
Interpretation of remote sensing data, and the development of techniques suitable
for handling the large volumes of data required for global monitoring, have progressed
substantially during the past decade. We argue that such progress will continue, and that
by the end of the decade there will be no substantial technical barriers against the use of
remote sensing data for active environmental monitoring. Technology is not seen as the
pacing development.