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Google Earth Oceans: Can Looking At Digital Oceans Help Save Real Ones? (VIDEO)

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Google Earth just got an upgrade to include oceans. Previously, the space between Earth's recognizable landmasses had flat blue and, well, not all that educational.

The Google Earth oceans upgrade allows users to do the following, according to the Google Earth download site:

*Dive beneath the surface and visit the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench

*Explore the ocean with top marine experts including National Geographic and BBC
*Learn about ocean observations, climate change, and endangered species
*Discover new places including surf, dive, and travel hot spots and shipwrecks

Ocean explorer Sylvia Earle acts as guide in this sort-of-stiff preview of Google Earth's "explore the oceans" feature for anybody who can't download it and play with it right away:

The New York Times' Andy Revkin wonders if the new Google Earth oceans upgrade will help endear users to the oceans.

The new version of Google Earth allows users to mouse around under and over the seas, click on video clips of hydrothermal vents, read up on which seafoods are being harvested unsustainably, look at marine dead zones and sanctuaries and the like.

Visitors can create their own narrated, illustrated tours of a neighborhood, scuba excursion or honeymoon. They can also now visually scroll through time, backtracking through sequences of satellite-imagery to see how coasts, forests, cities and other features of the planet are changing under the expanding imprint of ever more people eager for ever more stuff.

One big question: Will digital familiarity with a forest or coral reef breed caring and change people's priorities and practices (what they buy, what they preserve in their own environment)?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that was part of the idea behind the Google Earth ocean upgrade:

Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, said the launch of Ocean in Google Earth provided an opportunity to change people's perspective about the importance of the oceanic ecosystem in the overall health of the planet.

"In discussions about climate change, the world's oceans are often overlooked, despite being an integral part of the issue," he said. "Biodiversity loss in our oceans in the next 20 to 30 years will be roughly equivalent to losing an entire Amazon rainforest, but this goes unnoticed because we can't see it."

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