This is a guest post from Matt Link, Vice President of MapHook, a location-based social networking app dedicated to helping users explore their surroundings
For the past few years, MapHook has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on several social-good initiatives through the use of “geo-activism.” The opportunity to use our mapping app to bring about legitimate change –in this case helping to reduce the amount of harsh and often dangerous activities that can hurt animals or destroy their natural habitats –is something that MapHook is passionate about; we know our efforts have great potential to have a valuable impact. Together, MapHook and WWF created two crowd sourced maps to help bring attention to the thousands of people around the world advocating for two very specific causes – the destruction of the Sumatran tiger’s habitat and the threat that certain fishing methods posed to the survival of the vaquita porpoise. Both campaigns are great examples of the power of “geo-activism” and something we will continue to do in the near future.
Our first joint-cause was the “Tigers or Toilet Paper” project. The Sumatran tiger’s habitat was at risk of being destroyed because two paper supply companies were selling products that were made from the pulp of timber extracted from that area. Together, WWF and MapHook sought to spread awareness of the deforestation and ruin of the Sumatran tiger’s habitat through a visual representation of where these products ended up, and then urging the public not to purchase them. Our passionate advocates and user base took photos of the stores and businesses that were selling or purchasing these products, along with their location, and then turned them into pins on a custom map to help raise public awareness (in MapHook language – they created “hooks”). More than 100 “hooks” of grocery stores, hotels and other commercial establishments were created as a result of the campaign. Within a very short period of time after the hooks began to appear on our map, one of the two suppliers agreed to stop selling the products; the second agreed to phase out these products. You can read even more about the project here: http://worldwildlife.org/pages/don-t-flush-tiger-forests
In our second joint effort with WWF, we teamed up with them to help save the vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, in Mexico. Just last year, MapHook assisted WWF in their efforts to petition the Mexican government to pass regulations that would help reduce the threat of “bycatch” to the vaquita (bycatch is the unwanted fish caught during a commercial fishing operation). We developed a custom map that geographically depicted the many people, not just in Mexico but all around the world as well, who signed petitions advocating for the change. Using our mapping engine, we created and displayed over 60,000 “petition” pins showing the widespread support across the globe. In June, the Mexican government officially announced that it would begin phasing out the fishing gear currently used in the Gulf of California and replace it with more vaquita-friendly options. You can see a screen shot of the map below and experience the interactive one here: http://worldwildlife.org/stories/helping-the-world-s-smallest-porpoise
The potential for further geo-activism, similar to that undertaken on behalf of the Sumatran tigers and the vaquita, is something that MapHook looks forward to participating in. We’ve learned that our users all around the world are passionate about preserving the environment and the various creatures that inhabit it. If we can act as method of making their voices heard and influencing change, we certainly won’t shy away from it.