“They” are saying that 2015 is going to be the year of wearable technology – technology that is able to measure and analyse personal health.
It got me to thinking: I wonder how far we are from the day that humans will wake up in the morning, activate their “smart glasses” and check their own health statistics (heart rate, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.), and follow that up immediately by checking the planet’s health statistics? The app could show you: Earth’s current average temperature; this month’s CO2 emissions; ocean health index score; and, percentage land cover under forest.
You are only really healthy if the “host” is healthy, right?
“Big Data” was a trending phrase in 2014, but not just for sales and marketing. For conservation, the increased availability of real-time data, much of which is crowd-sourced from a variety of reliable sources, means that we are able to keep records that can be used to plot the “health” of the planet.
What is remarkable is that the data is not restricted to scientists and analysts. It is available to anyone with access to the Internet.
Here are two incredible examples:
- Ocean Health Index
Want to know how healthy the ocean off your coast is? The Ocean Health Index is a quantifiable assessment of the capacity of our oceans to deliver benefits and resources sustainably. The tool synthesises dozens of datasets (from fisheries to tourism to habitats) and provides a global index score from 0 – 100 for economic zones and the high seas. In 2014, South Africa scored 65 (the same as Japan) and the USA scored 72. According to one report, leaders in Columbia were so disappointed with their score that they now use the index to guide their marine and coastal policies.
Click here to find out your ocean’s score (the image below shows the top rankings). You can also keep up-to-date on the Ocean Health Index by following these social media:
- Global Forest Watch
The Global Forest Watch (GFW) is an open source tool that combines satellite pictures, computer algorithms, and crowd-sourced data to track changes to forest cover in real time. Users are able to sign up for online alerts that send out messages when there’s activity in a selected country or specific area. The tool can also be used for environmental law enforcement. Instead of law enforcers searching huge areas for illegal loggers, they can use the tool to receive alerts.
Here are some interesting numbers reported by GFW, which is a project supported by Google:
- 80.6 Million hectares of tree cover gain from 2000 – 2012
- 229.8 Million hectares of tree cover loss from 2000 – 2012
- 20.8 Million hectares of tree cover loss in 2012
You can watch the video below to find out more. You can also keep up-to-date on Global Forest Watch by following these social media:
There is no doubt that big data is going to be an important tool for conservation scientists, but one of its greatest strengths is going to be its ability to keep individual citizens up-to-date on the health of our planet.
Imagine your town or municipality had a “Recycling Index” or imagine you could instantly check the average temperature of the world right now on your smartphone (and access data that showed you that 2014 was the hottest year on record).
If you know of any other big data tools that are helping us to sustain nature, please share them with us below. In the meantime, keep an eye on your ocean’s health score and if you want to contribute to our ocean’s health immediately, here’s a consumer’s guide to sustainable seafood.
Written by: Ryan James