When Google Earth launched two years ago, it was fun to see that many people around the world used it to fly to their homes, navigate around their neighborhoods, and explore the planet. But when, in September 2005, it was used to rescue stranded victims in the aftermath of Katrina, we realized that Google Earth had the potential to be a significant tool beyond personal exploration. We began to see public-benefit KMLs created for things like environmental protection and global public health. A large number of non-profit groups started contacting us, asking good questions: can Google Earth help us illustrate our projects in a new and more compelling manner than text and slideshows? Are there methods or tools for importing our existing data into Google Earth? Can you tell us about any other non-profits who’ve been successful at using GE to reach a new audience, raise awareness, gain volunteers, inspire people into action, and create a tangible impact?

We listened carefully and worked on this for more than a year, and now, the answer is “Yes!” Today we're formally launching Google Earth Outreach, a program designed to empower non-profit groups with the resources, tools, and inspiration that they need to leverage the power of Google Earth for their cause. This is where public service groups can find online guides and video tutorials, inspiring case studies and a gallery of high-quality, public-benefit KML. We are offering free Google Earth Pro licenses to qualified non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations. And the Earth Outreach team is also moderating a forum to foster discussion, exchange ideas, and give technical support.

We're excited to see the birth of Google Earth Outreach, and it's truly an honor for us to be able to support the critically important work of these groups. As Dr. Jane Goodall said, "Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. With Google Earth Outreach, more people have the chance to see, to care, and then to act."

Update: Here's some video from our Google Earth Outreach event on Tuesday. Enjoy!