Neil Young signs on to save the rainforest - using solar powered mobile phones

The composer of After The Goldrush has teamed up with Rainforest Connection – the brainchild of American physicist Topher White

Environment Editor

Neil Young’s concern for the environment shows no sign of abating. 44 years after first singing “look at Mother Nature on the run in the 1970s”, the Canadian legend is following in Sting’s footsteps by throwing his weight behind a new project to save the rainforest.

The composer of After The Goldrush has teamed up with Rainforest Connection – the brainchild of American physicist Topher White – to set up a network of solar-powered mobile phones that alert guards to illegal logging activity.

The project takes old mobile phones, retrofits them with solar panels and places them in trees around the forest. When their microphones pick up the sound of chainsaws, animals in distress or gunshots, they alert authorities in “real time” so they can apprehend the criminals.

“Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st Century – there are a lot of factors but these forests are one of the big ones. This enables the forest to talk to the world. When the forest is threatened it can speak and you can hear it,” said Mr Young.

The project has already completed one pilot project in Indonesia and is in the process of raising money for three more. It is using the Kickstarter online crowdfunding site, which connects projects with donors.

“Current detection systems rely on satellites which show rainforest destruction days or weeks too late,” according to the Kickstarter site.

“Our system provides the world’s first real time logging/poaching detection system. We can pinpoint deforestation activity the moment it begins, while simultaneously streaming the data openly and immediately to anyone round the world,” it adds.

Between 50 and 90 per cent of logging in the rainforest is illegal, according to Interpol, the international police organisation.

The project hopes to be able to raise enough money to help the Tembe indigenous people of Brazil fight black market illegal logging operations. It also hopes to place the system in trees across Indonesia.

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