From deforestation to pandemic, this new instrument visualizes changes at the planetary level – with the aim of bringing the discussion of how we treat our home to the forefront.
We live in a time of change. The data collection has become exponential so that in recent years more information has been collected than has been recorded throughout human history. At the same time, there is a shift in our world that may be irreversible as climate change prevails at a time of unrestricted human impact on the Earth systems.
Five years ago, I saw how data can provide clues to these changes and help people understand the magnitude and importance of the impact of our activities on the future of our children.
Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Center described waterways in the sky through the forests of Amazonia and how deforestation has unintended consequences of the drought in São Paulo. His speech had the power of a combined narrative: one that brings the world's data to the key themes of our time. He combined the points with facts, empathy and data all at once.
Inspired by this approach, we partnered with the World Economic Forum at the Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab to collect global visual information sources from an open data source. Open source umbrella. We asked: Could world experts on food, pandemics, climate change, deforestation and refugees, in the last few decades, actually make changes with the help of massive spatiotemporal visualizations?
The project combines fact-based narratives of experts with visually compelling images that break through every language and culture barrier, create common ground across different viewpoints, and help create the sense of unity that we need to engage in meaningful discussions. Like us make our future more meaningful.
The project grew rapidly, starting with just a few datasets, including all the satellite imagery that LANDSAT has ever taken from the Earth's surface thanks to NASA and Google, and then gradually massive data on deforestation analysis. Thanks to Matt Hansen of the University of Maryland. Soon we had dozens of shifts. At the World Economic Forum World Summit, world leaders were hungry for a new way to understand planetary change. They then went upstairs and zoomed in, eager to learn more about their circumstances. Some were surprised when they discovered that their cities would be submerged in a world 4 degrees warmer than the present. They asked for copies of the data interface so that they could share them with ministers, teachers and citizens.
In recent years, we have developed an interactive, web-based system that can support large spatial and temporal datasets of any type: rivers, point maps, color images, satellite renderings. In any case, the data comes to us thanks to the close collaboration with partners who have created, peer-reviewed and published the data, such as the University of Oxford, Harvard, the United States Geological Survey, UNHCR and many others. They see value in sharing data openly on a non-profit platform that explicitly links their information to narrative generated by our global panel of experts. While some tell stories of decline, others show the power in our hands to bring about change.
Computers and mobile phones have become more and more capable of hosting and operating such data. This year, we've reached a watershed moment when, for the first time, we're releasing our entire system, EarthTime, for interactive exploration, learning and sharing around the world.
Thanks to Close Collaboration Between the World Economic Forum and the CREATE Lab of Carnegie Mellon University, we have developed an interactive system that allows the public to explore this vast amount of data and select experts to guide us through topics that are important to us All of us are of great importance. 1
Written by Illah Nourbakhsh, Professor, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University
This article was published by courtesy of the World Economic Forum.