February 12, 2000
Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, DC 20546
Re: (De-)Mapping the Earth
I spent eight years working on stopping highway construction, initially to reduce air pollution, but later also to protect wildlife. I came to the conclusion that roads are the largest single threat to wildlife. It is pretty difficult to do a lot of damage to wildlife and the environment, without roads!
After a while, I realized that I was wrong: roads cannot be built without the area first being mapped! Maps are actually the greatest threat to wildlife. Not only do they facilitate the construction of roads, but they make it easy for all manner of recreation, and scientists, to invade wildlife habitat, driving wildlife away from the resources they need and leading to endangerment and extinction.
Humans think that we own, and have the right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. This is the basic reason why wildlife, worldwide, are going extinct at an unconscionable and unprecedented rate. The only way that they will be able to survive is if we begin exercising some restraint, and granting them human-free habitat. It's obviously what they want, and hence what they need!
Your Earth-mapping project is very misguided! We don't need more maps, we need to start de-mapping the scanty scraps of viable habitat that remain on the Earth, and pulling all human artifacts out of them, especially roads and trails. Think "Terra Incognita", just like in the old days!
Please stop this expensive boondoggle before it can do any more damage! Don't tell me how "beneficial" it will be. From the point of view of wildlife, it will be unequivocally harmful.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
P.S. Please see http://home.pacbell.net/mjvande, especially "Wildlife and the Ecocity" and "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans"