Neil Young Backs Drive to Equip Trees With Cell Phones

Posted on July 28, 2014 | by Jason Walsh

If a tree falls in the rainforest and there’s no one around to hear it—can it make a phone call?

That’s the idea behind Rainforest Connection, a group hoping to develop a technology by which illegal-rainforest-logging alerts can be delivered to authorities instantly by cell phone.

The group’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign has gotten a major PR boost by none other than Neil Young, who took to Kickstarter—where Young raised $6.2 million this spring for his new PonoMusic digital download company— to urge Pono followers to lend their support to Rainforest Connection.

In a Kickstarter message directed to Pono supporters, the folk-rock legend says that Rainforest Connection would protect endangered rainforests “in an entirely new way.”

That’s putting it mildly. The Rainforest Connection concept takes discarded cell phones, equips them with a solar technology, and places them in trees. The cell phones are set to continuously stream the ambient noise of the forest—so when the phones pick up the sound of gunshots, chainsaws, or other indicators of rainforest distress, an alert is immediately sent to the authorities.

According to Topher White, the founder and chief engineer of Rainforest Connection, a single device placed in a tree can pick up logging sounds within a mile radius.  

“[It’s] a creative and timely technology that can fight climate change and mass extinction at a point of immediate impact,” says Young.

Rainforest Connection’s Kickstarter campaign has already raised $144,000—far surpassing its goal of $100,000, an amount the group says will enable it to launch the program in central Africa. If it reaches $165,000 by the time the Kickstarter campaign ends July 29, the group says it could expand its deployment to the Brazilian Amazon.

For those who donate $10 or more to Rainforest Connection, Young is offering an exclusive audio download of the sounds of the rainforest. “Trust me when I say you’ve never heard anything quite like this,” boasts Young.

For those who'd prefer the sounds of Neil Young, check out the above clip of the acoustic-rocker performing his eco-themed "Natural Beauty."

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