Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace
Tartle Best Data Marketplace

Our pace of innovation comes at a heavy cost. The price of innovating new technologies has led to extensive environmental harm in the past few decades alone. So how can we come together and answer the climate emergency before it’s too late?

Mark Jaccard has a keen focus on energy efficiency and systems. His work is dedicated to discovering how they should be used and engineered for our future. In this episode, Alexander McCaig discusses climate stability in the backdrop of Mark’s book, entitled The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success.

Making Climate Stability Possible Across Borders

Awareness encourages political action. Policies that mitigate the emission of greenhouse gasses, for example, are going to be crucial in saving the environment. Mark Jaccard believes that this phenomenon is already happening in developed areas, such as Canada, the United States, and Europe. 

What’s important to consider is that we don’t have to make everybody agree. As Mark points out, the world has successfully acted on ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). While not everybody understood the full breadth of the problem, the governments of developed countries were prepared to act.

However, Mark also believes that making climate stability a priority in developing countries will be one of the world’s most pressing issues. This is because while CFCs are mostly generated in developed countries, the bigger problem is in developing areas where inferior refrigeration technologies cause more harm to the environment. 

In addition, the level of awareness is much lower. It’s not just because of lower levels of education. The reality is also that people in developing areas have very different priorities. It’s difficult to tackle long-term and large-scale issues like the environment when your day-to-day welfare is constantly challenged.

How We Can Ensure Climate Stability

To effectively tackle the climate change issue, we need to address several realities. First, greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow and will be especially prevalent in the developing world. Second, energy use on the planet will increase.

Mark believes that preventing the worst of climate change calls for energy systems that don’t emit CO2, especially in the developing world. This is why, he explains, his book doesn’t just call for individuals to change their behavior. It’s also about how we can hold communities and governments, at large, accountable.

To make this happen, Mark suggests global diplomacy. Tariffs and sanctions will send the message that the climate is a global problem, and you need to be a part of the solution. Since this kind of action takes place between governments, many view this as a top-down approach. However, Mark emphasizes that this approach needs to be paired with an effort to raise awareness on the ground.

Fossil Fuels and the Growing Energy Crisis

In addition, Mark believes that climate stability can be achieved when we refine our approach to fossil fuels. They produce plenty of quality energy (which Mark refers to as “exergy) and as we move away from fossil fuels, we can still use them by converting them into hydrogen and electricity, and capturing the carbon dioxide.

For as long as humans exist, we will indulge in energy-intensive activities that hurt the environment. However, it is possible that as our quality of life improves, so does the rate of energy used per person. Mark points out that this is already occurring in Europe and North America. 

Also, we can invest in building additional infrastructures for fossil fuels so that we can still enjoy its high energy quality without harming the environment. This involves technologies that can capture the carbon dioxide out of the smoke stack and bury it underground.

Closing Thoughts

Preserving the environment for the generations after us is not an easy feat. We need to undo (or at least refine) several elements of our society that we’ve grown so used to. For example, we need to think about making cars and air conditioners more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. We need to look at the way we’ve built our cities. We need to make difficult, sometimes expensive lifestyle choices. 

And that’s just on an individual level. We also need to think of raising awareness within our community. Lobbying for laws and policies for the environment. Holding our government and corporations accountable for their own impact on the climate.

This sounds like a massive undertaking. But remember: all you need to get going is to take one small step. And then another. And then you keep going until it all builds up.

Get to know more about TARTLE’s advocacy and our Big 7 through this link here.

How to Succeed at Saving the Climate and Our Future With Mark Jaccard by TARTLE is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Water is essential for economic activities as well as for the well-being of humans. Considering how critical water is to both agricultural production and domestic consumption, conflict over water and the potential ramifications of decisions made over it may have much further consequences for human well-being. It can even have an impact on economic development and social change. 

The problem of getting access to fresh water is a global priority that needs to be addressed.

Thirst for Water Security

Access to safe water is vital for the survival of all life on Earth. Civilization began along the banks of rivers and canals, and waterways played a significant role in the development of agriculture, commerce, and advances in industry, science, and technological innovation. 

Water scarcity is not just a result of natural resource depletion; it is also the result of power relations and political decisions. Addressing water development as a political problem might provide light on some of the extra areas of concern.

The availability of clean drinking water has long played a role in politics, with decisions about the provision of services having the potential to positively impact or harm citizens depending on their access to safe water in their communities. Because of the scarcity of this essential resource, communities are forced to compete against one another for access to it.

Social conflicts and societal change are created and influenced at the same time by the natural conditions in which water occurs, sometimes in unexpected and unforeseen directions. There are structural obstacles in water development that address infrastructure, financing, and economic sustainability, as well as education and awareness of water issues.

For example, water has an effect on gender and income inequality in plenty of underdeveloped communities. Women are traditionally the family members responsible for retrieving water. When they spend a significant portion of their day procuring this basic resource, they are unable to alleviate their financial situation through work or education. 

The Ebb and Flow of Water Scarcity

Being in a situation with no fresh water is indeed a terrifying concept since it poses a major and immediate danger to our own life. Regrettably, this is a concern that millions of individuals currently experience on a daily basis.

It is reasonable to assume that water, which occupies 70% of our planet, would always be abundant. However, fresh water, on the other hand, is rather scarce. More than two-thirds of the freshwater on the planet is frozen in glaciers or otherwise inaccessible to humans.

Despite water being virtually everywhere from seas and rivers to underground reservoirs, why is it still a scarce resource? This might happen if there is a shortage of supply or if the infrastructure for distribution is inadequate.

Water resources are being depleted in some parts of the world on a regular basis, such as in northern Africa, the Middle East, and western Asia. Excessive use of non-renewable resources to meet water needs has led some countries to extract ten times their yearly renewable water supply. If nothing is done, the people of these countries will face an impending humanitarian catastrophe if ever these water reserves become depleted.

Braving the Deluge

Water scarcity and insecurity is a threat to human lives and ecosystems everywhere. This can lead to severe malnutrition among people and gradual economic decline for affected nations. 

Whole ecosystems suffer when freshwater is insufficient. Pollution may cause rivers, lakes, and aquifers to dry up. As a consequence of climate change, some places are experiencing water shortages and drought, while others are experiencing floods.

Since it has been established that water scarcity is not just an issue of supply and demand but also an issue of politics, it is critical that we tackle systemic issues associated with water resource management and habitat protection prior to the onset of the worst effects of climate change.

Governments, corporations, and local communities must cooperate to maintain adequate in-stream levels of freshwater for humans and other freshwater species, as well as to encourage ways for sustainable consumption. There is also a need for these institutions to develop and adapt innovative solutions that would aid in the effort of maintaining water supply and prevent future problems with water insecurity.

Closing Thoughts: Water, Water Everywhere

Human lives and entire civilizations depend on water to exist and thrive— and yet, the problems surrounding adequate water supply and distribution remain severely understated.

We need to understand how social pressure influences the way resources are allocated and handled. We would be better equipped in holding governments responsible and exercising our rights to clean water if we are more informed about how politics affects natural resources management. 

Inadequate understanding of the relationship between access to sufficient water and national stability poses grave global security implications, particularly if remedial technology and policy measures to strengthen water resilience and assure availability and access are not adopted.

In TARTLE, we believe that proactive collaboration is the key to hurdling various issues, including those that affect humanity in a global scheme. Information and cooperation is a vital part in addressing these systemic problems, and we envision a society strengthened by these values. The power is back in your hands.

What’s your data worth?

Antarctica and Australia and Climate Change

Guess what? A chunk of ice bigger than New York City recently broke off the ice shelf in Antarctica. The continent has been recording some of its warmest days ever and that ice seems to be breaking off at an alarming rate. Before you ask, yes, we are talking about net loss. 

If you are thinking about the potential effects of that if the trend should continue - good. There is so much ice on the massive continent that if all of it melted, it would raise sea level by 180ft. Not quite the way the world looks in Waterworld, but certainly there would be a lot less land.

Of course, all of that ice is highly unlikely to melt and certainly won’t do so overnight. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some immediate effects that we should concern ourselves with. One aspect is all of the freshwater that is getting added into the ocean. As that melts, the ocean’s salt and minerals are diluted, potentially disrupting sensitive ecosystems. 

It actually reminds me of another movie, The Day After Tomorrow. While the scenario in the film is outlandish, its premise is founded in a grain of truth. There has been concern in the past that melting ice at the North Pole would disrupt the Trans-Atlantic Current (TAC). All the freshwater, being lighter than salt water, would in effect submerge the current, interrupting the flow of warm water the TAC brings up from the Caribbean. Some scientists believe that may be what caused the Little Ice Age from roughly 1300 – 1850 AD. This makes sense as immediately preceding that time frame was the equally well-known Medieval Warming Period. 

The water from melting Antarctic ice is not terribly likely to directly affect the TAC, yet it could have an effect on weather in Australia by disrupting local water currents. The warmer water in general could also weaken the polar vortex at the South Pole. The vortex is created because of the difference in temperature between the water immediately around the frozen continent and the warmer water that comes down from the equatorial region. Less temperature difference equals a weaker vortex, which could lead to warmer and drier weather in Australia. If you remember the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, large swaths of Australia were a blazing hell-scape that at one point even rained fire. I’m sure they would like less of that, not more. 

That begs the question, how does one make that happen? Most of us lack the resources to have any significant impact all by ourselves, positive or negative. However, when a large number of people all take action in a particular direction, the results can be astonishing, even though the action taken by one person seems insignificant. For those who fly, maybe the business can have their meetings on Zoom instead. Yes, the Davos crowd would do well to put their money where their mouths are on this one. Don’t fly? Maybe one less steak a week. How does that affect anything? Cows take up a lot of land. A whole lot. That usually leads to the cutting down of lots of CO2 processing trees to make room for the bovine methane generators. A little less consumption on the part of everyone can save acres of rainforest. You most likely drive. Make your next car something more fuel efficient. In the meantime, getting all of your shopping done in one shot and cutting down on those trips to town wouldn’t hurt. 

Yes, these are all individually insignificant. But if a billion people around the world did it, it would add up to a big gain. You could then share the changes you’ve made via TARTLE, making it possible to track the effects, and determine what had the biggest net gain so people can actually see the results and use them to determine their own course of action. And maybe, that ice will melt just a little bit slower.

What’s your data worth? Sign up for the TARTLE Marketplace through this link here.

Since at least the 1990s, teenagers have been the demographic most concerned with a changing climate and the environment as a whole. Thinking back, it’s not hard to remember various start-ups, NGOs and marketing campaigns that were directed at and often featured teenagers in their marketing. That is because when people are in their teens, they are very receptive, energetic, and usually at their most idealistic. Most teenagers since the invention of the word at least want to try to solve all the world’s problems. 

According to a recent article by Bloomberg, the situation hasn’t changed much. Approximately 69% of teenagers around the world currently view climate change as an emergency. It doesn’t go into comparing that with percentages from other times but experience indicates that the numbers would be fairly high. The key of course is channeling that concern into action. In all seriousness, being concerned and angry while sitting at home and tweeting about it probably does more harm than good. 

Some have certainly figured out how to channel their energy productively. Plenty of people who grew up in the 1990s are now running companies that have taken the job of caring for the environment seriously. That’s the whole reason for LEED standards, the growth of geothermal technology, more efficient batteries, recycling water bottles into clothing and the list goes on. They’ve helped drive changes in other companies as well. When was the last time you saw a fastfood place with a Styrofoam container? How many different hair sprays contain CFCs? If it wasn’t for people from that generation growing up and converting their concern into productive action, the environmental situation would be much worse. I know, for example, that the local river is cleaner today than it was thirty years ago, and there is less litter lying around locally as well. 

Teenagers and Climate

So, how can we help encourage other teens to channel their energy productively? One way is to share the stories of people who have made a difference. If people see an emergency before them but no clear way of dealing with it, it is at least as likely that they will be paralyzed by despair as galvanized into action. Telling the positive stories of those who have managed to improve the environment can give hope that something can be done and inspire a new generation to take up the mantle. This is part of the reason some religions have specific saints, to provide examples of how to deal with the trials and tribulations the world will throw at you. Examples are powerful motivators regardless of what you want to motivate. 

Another of course is education. But, and this is key, not merely telling people about the climate, but teaching them how to figure it out for themselves. Instead of just telling people how bad things are or might be, give them the tools to educate themselves. Where can they go and find the data for themselves? Show them how to deal with difficult questions by letting them ask those questions and taking them seriously. Real education isn’t creating drones who repeat what they are told. It’s helping people develop their capacity for independent thought. That, plus the energy of youth is precisely how teens become young adults developing out of the box solutions that can have a genuine, positive effect. 

Finally, encourage them to take care of the little things. To go out and take care of some of the litter at the local beach. To go to the town meetings on approving a new power plant, or a car charging station. Or to go out and plant trees, volunteer at the animal shelter. Encouraging teens to take care of small local things helps build a real appreciation for the environment and gives them personal experience with making the world a better place. 

As a bonus, there is always signing up for TARTLE. Share data on what your local issues are and what works and what doesn’t. That information can help drive positive change in the future. 

What’s your data worth? Sign up for the TARTLE Marketplace through this link here.

Well, the rich and the powerful are at it again with some new pledges from their favorite vacation spot. Per the usual arrangement, they gathered to speak at length and in eloquent language about climate change at the conference, right after they arrived in their private jets. Surely they have the technology to pull off a decent Zoom call. 

In any case, this time around, over sixty big businesses have pledged to all and sundry that they would be more transparent. This latest pledge includes commitments to issue reports on things like greenhouse gas emissions, equal pay, water use, plastic use, and a lot more. It is of course good to pay attention to all of these things and that is the first step to actually doing something about improving the environment. However, does any of this even imply that anything is actually going to be done? Let’s take a look.

Davos, Pledges, and Straws

What is this pledge? It is a pledge to commit to report on various metrics. Well, that’s less than impressive. First, pledges have a way of not really materializing. There is always some reason they can’t be fulfilled. Commitments are no different. Maybe they are met, maybe they aren’t. Often, we never know because our memory is basically non-existent, the only thing we seem to have less of is follow through. So if we remember that there was a commitment, we most likely won’t even follow through to see if anything ever came of it. For a lot of people, that’s due to just plain laziness, for others, they’ve just come to accept that nothing is ever really going to change. And then, there are the reports that these companies (including MasterCard and Unilever) say they will be producing. Reports like this don’t change anything in and of themselves, at best, they are interesting spins on data. At worst, they are tremendous wastes of money that mostly exist to give the illusion of action. What usually winds up happening is that the pledges get lauded in the press and the companies go about business as usual. Or they might make some effort here and there, reducing plastics one year, emissions by a bit the next and other token gestures. 

My personal favorite token gesture was actually at a local restaurant. If you recall a few years ago, everybody was very worked up over plastic straws and this restaurant was no different. They had signs proudly proclaiming that they weren’t using them anymore. Well and good. However, my drink was served in a single use plastic cup and I ate with single use plastic cutlery. Seriously, who are we trying to kid here? 

My point here is that most of these pledges and reports are basically like ditching plastic straws while keeping the plastic cups. The cup might not fit up a turtle’s nose but it still is contributing to the problem of microplastics in the ocean. The main difference is that one has imagery attached to it that plays on our emotions. The pledges come with a lot of evocative headlines and photo-ops with people in suits signing things with fancy pens. In the end, it’s all theater.

If these companies are serious, they are going to have to start taking real action. For that, they are going to need some real data and not just react and make promises based on whatever headlines they see trending on social media. We encourage all of these companies to get in touch with TARTLE to investigate the best possible ways to get that data. We can put them in contact with real people on the ground in countries around the world to get a better read on what sort of policies and changes they most need to see that could make a real difference in people’s lives.

What’s your data worth? Sign up for the TARTLE Marketplace through this link here.

The globe’s climate is kind of a big deal. After all, we all live in it. As such it’s interesting to look at how different countries are doing when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and exploring renewable energy sources. One might naturally think that the wealthier nations are doing a better job being that they have more money to spend on – well – everything. However, as with a great many things in life, things are not always as you would think.

According to a recent paper from the MIT Tech Review the wealthier countries are not exactly stacking up as you might think. In fact, it ranks relatively poor countries like Ukraine and Angola above the economic juggernauts of the United States and China. Tiny little Iceland is actually ranked number one. Now before we get into how that is happening and why some might be ranked where they are, let's take a quick look at the criteria MIT was using. 

Greening of the World

The paper’s authors looked at a number of factors:

Carbon emissions – Fewer emissions gets you a better ranking as does a net decrease in emissions compared to the previous year. 

Energy transition – How many renewable sources are getting built to replace older, fossil fuel power plants?

Green society – This one is a grab bag, including things like how much forest a country has, how many energy efficient buildings, and a host of other things. 

Clean innovation – Where are the hot spots for developing new, green friendly technology?

Climate policy – Basically, is the government encouraging development of new technologies and methods for a more sustainable world?

As a matter of purely objective measures, this isn’t bad, though there is plenty of room for subjectivity to enter in and it is unclear how certain subcategories are weighed. For example, is the use of animal products given more importance than energy efficient buildings? That would give a society like India a big advantage over many others since their primary religion prevents the eating of cows. Mention is also made of COVID stimulus being used to encourage green development. Personally, that seems potentially opportunistic. If the goals are synergistic, then great. It is something to watch out for though. 

Those criticisms aside, the list is still pretty good and allows for a decent snapshot. So, let’s take a look at Iceland and why they might be ranked number one. Iceland has a lot of unique features that make it particularly well situated to do well with any sort of green ranking system. One is the fact it is a small island. There isn’t a ton of cattle farming that can go on there and as such it’s a nation that has always relied heavily on fishing. That means one part of the green society aspect is going to be well covered. While being very far north, being surrounded by ocean as well as having a large amount of volcanic activity means Iceland is surprisingly temperate given its latitude. That means there is less energy that has to get used for heating and cooling than in Ecuador. They also have made intelligent use of some of their natural resources, making use of all that volcanic energy in the form of geothermal heating. The government there has also shown a willingness to encourage experimentation. In particular, they are pursuing the development of a hydrogen economy that if successful will help Iceland reach carbon neutrality. 

It’s also worth noting that Iceland’s small size means that there are not a number of different cultures within its borders, meaning there are not vast numbers of different mindsets and interests to deal with. A country as large as the United States has multiple cultures that have to be kept at peace. Forcing anything in terms of policy risks causing upheaval no matter what the policy changes might be. Combine that with the expense of new construction, difficulty of labyrinthine regulations, and vast amounts of preexisting infrastructure it is not hard to understand America’s relatively low ranking. 

That said, the US has done a good job of reducing overall emissions in recent years and has at least potential for moving up quickly, given the vast open land that could be reforested and the advances in solar and carbon capture technology that could help a lot in the energy transition sector and further reduce emissions. Hopefully this potential will be better realized in the near future.

So, what can you do? If you have thoughts on the importance of climate stability, or experience working in a relevant field, then you can put that information in a data packet on TARTLE and share it with those looking for data like yours to help everyone build a better future. 

What’s your data worth? Sign up for the TARTLE Marketplace through this link here.

Mastercard Strives for Net Zero?

Net Zero? The old ISP? Nope, this would be referencing climate goals. Specifically to reach the goal of net zero climate emissions. Sounds good doesn’t it? And it is, but you may have noticed that the goal isn’t ‘zero’. It’s ‘net zero’. What that means is that reaching net zero emissions means that a company or country that sets that goal is doing something to offset their emissions. That could be a lot of things. It could be planting trees, contributing to renewable energy, or technology that reduces vehicle emissions. Depending on who is doing the counting, things like cleaning up landfills and recycling might be considered as offsetting some emissions. More on that sort of thing in a minute. 

Many companies have announced their intention to reach this goal at some point in the future. The latest among these is credit giant Mastercard. However, you might want to hold the fireworks and the kazoos. Keep that champagne corked y’all. Why? Because the powers that be have set their net zero goal for 2050, a timeframe that was actually called ‘audacious’. Really? Thirty years is ‘audacious’? Next week, that would be audacious. And unachievable but that’s beside the point. 

So why aren’t we celebrating? Isn't it good that Mastercard is at least trying? That’s the wrong question. The right question is, are they really trying at all with a goal like that? If the goal were five or even ten years, that might be considered trying. Thirty is a virtue signal. It’s made to make people think that they are trying.

I get it. That seems unfair. Stop to think though. How many times have you heard of some long term goal getting set by any organization and then heard of it actually being met? Whether we are talking about countries, the UN, companies, or charities, long term goals or pledges like that rarely amount to much. Just think of all the ‘moonshots’ the US government has announced over the years. Whether it’s going to Mars, curing cancer, eradicating poverty, etc. They never go anywhere. 

The fact is, there isn’t any sort of long term planning ability in most organizations. Most executives won’t last anything like the amount of time needed to make the goal a reality. And that’s if they even mean it in the first place. So even if the current Mastercard CEO and Board of Directors are well intentioned, the chances of the next two or three having the same vision are pretty darn slim. And even if they were going to try to get somewhere with it, there are creative ways of accounting that could very easily be applied to the net zero concept. In fact, so many unrelated issues have been bound up with climate change and environmentalism in general in recent years that almost any donation to anything could wind up counting.

Let’s say for a moment though that Mastercard was actually interested in reducing its emissions and doing so in a reasonable period of time, how might it go about that? Well, the company has 180 data centers worldwide. They no doubt suck up a fair amount of electricity so that would be a good place to start. Is there a more efficient way to store and process the data? Could they actually collect less of it? Could the buildings those data centers are in be made more efficient so they take less to heat and cool? What if they powered the climate control systems at least from solar panels on the buildings in climates where that makes sense? 

Mastercard could also do the classic thing and plant some trees. Surely they could spare money to take some brownfields and turn them into greenfields, something that would benefit the local community as well as the environment. There are plenty of options available to organizations that are willing to take the goal of net zero emissions seriously.

What’s your data worth? Sign up and join the TARTLE Marketplace with this link here.

Pollution and Death

Normally, when a story pops up about fossil fuels, it has to do with global warming. People are typically concerned with the greenhouse gasses that are emitted and how much that might contribute to altering the climate. However, there is another, more immediate issue at hand regarding fossil fuels – how pollution affects health. 

Naturally, everyone sees those smokestacks coming out of coal, oil, and natural gas plants. All that smoke is left over particulates that are getting sent into the atmosphere. It would be nice to think that all of that gets sent up into the upper atmosphere, never to return but nothing really works that way. What goes up must come down and all those little particles float down and find their way from the smokestacks into our lungs. Not to mention getting into our food. Get a toxicology report done on yourself and you will probably find that your body is full of tons of things that shouldn’t be there. How much is this really affecting people? According to an article in Bloomberg, it might be up to 8.7 million globally every year. That is twice the amount of previous estimates. Now, given the disparity, someone’s method is very, very wrong. Which one? I’m not equipped to say. However, even 4.35 million annually is an awful lot of dead people. 

This should provide great motivation to find alternatives to fossil fuels. Why not just shut them all down? Because they provide the vast majority of electricity in the world, something that has saved more lives than can be counted. Cutting off fossil fuels all at once with no plan just isn’t going to happen, it would plunge the world into chaos and kill a lot more people. So, we need a plan. We already have well developed nuclear technology that has been operating since the seventies with very little pollution. There are even newer, safer, and more efficient designs like thorium reactors that we could take advantage of if there were the political will to help people get over their visceral fear of the word ‘nuclear’. Additional research should also be done on other alternatives like geothermal and solar power. They can be very effective in certain applications, the initial investment just needs to get cheaper. I would mention wind power but I’ve known too many people who have worked in that field, from the engineers that design the blades to the guys climbing the ladders to fix them and they all agree that wind power isn’t viable. 

We should also continue to develop better technologies to make fossil fuels cleaner in the meantime. Fortunately, this is something we have gotten much better at in recent years. Scrubbers on coal and oil plants have greatly reduced the amount of pollution emitted in the air. Natural gas burns a lot cleaner than both of them, making it a good transitional power source. We’ve gotten better with pollution in general, in the air and in the water. I clearly remember going through Gary, Indiana back in the day and the stench was…impressive, even with all the bus windows up. Now, I can drive through the heavily industrial town and barely even notice the smell. Though I still keep the windows up. We haven’t had a Great Lake or a river catch on fire in a very long time, and we aren’t currently filling up the Chicago River with literal garbage. 

While all of that is great, there is clearly still a long way to go. Not just on the energy production end of things but on the consumption side as well. If we bought less stuff or used less electricity, we would be polluting less, which means less of that in the air and in our lungs and consequently fewer people dead. That seems a worthy goal, doesn’t it?

What’s your data worth? Sign up and join the TARTLE Marketplace with this link here.

Climate and Health

They say it’s a small world and getting smaller. In many ways that’s true. Thanks to the many advances in transportation and communication over the last hundred years, it’s easy to think sometimes that the world is more like a big town. Especially with the rise of social media over the last ten years, we can actually have regular conversations with people thousands of miles away. Even though TARTLE is a small company, we have team members all around the world. So yes, it’s very easy to think of the world as small and getting smaller. Yet, it’s still very physically big. When something happens on the other side of the Atlantic or even on the other side of the country, it’s very easy to think of it as not really affecting us, certainly not how it might be affecting our health. 

Yet, this where we have to realize that while the world may be big enough that things don’t directly affect us, it is still small enough that we are indirectly affected by a lot of things. There are plenty of examples. 

Turn the clock all the way back to 9/11/01 when terrorists flew a pair of passenger liners into the World Trade Center in New York. For weeks after, flights were grounded. That led to a measurable increase in the amount of sunlight reaching the earth, sunlight that normally is blocked by contrails. 

More recently are all the wildfires in the western United States in the summer of 2020. Dry weather and poor forest management caused what in the US was a worse than average wildfire season. The immediate effects were of course loss of millions of acres of forest, loss of homes for many and loss of life. So much burned that it also had a significant effect on the amount of sunlight reaching the ground. So much particulate went into the upper atmosphere that it affected the colors during sunrise and sunset at least as far away as Michigan. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the sheer amount of smoke and other particles in the air is going to have an effect on people’s respiratory health. In fact, it’s actually possible that the wildfires and the subsequent respiratory effects helped fuel the summer COVID spike that was seen in the United States.

Or recall the big storm that went through the plain states last fall, destroying millions of acres of crops. Fallout from that affects food prices which in turn affects people’s ability to get quality food, which in turn affects long term health. 

One doesn’t even need to invoke climate change to make this point. If a water treatment plant is poorly maintained or its capacity is overwhelmed due to excess water usage or too many chemicals getting flushed down the drain it can cause a failure that leads to significant river contamination, which has a downstream effect on fish and other things, such as treatment plants that take water out of the river for nearby towns. 

A single cigarette tossed out the window or poorly managed campfire can turn into something that affects people thousands of miles away. One mistake in quarantine procedures can lead to an invasive species such as Asian Carp taking over whole river systems, causing significant effects on the overall food supply. 

How to track all of this and its long term effects on the globe? We need data, and as always, the closer we can get to the source of that data the better. This is exactly why TARTLE is set up the way it is. We provide buyers the ability to connect not just with random information, but with individuals who generate data every day and who can generate more if need be. Want to know how food prices are affected by a big storm? Go ask people how prices are going up in their area. How is health getting affected? Go directly to the hospitals and clinics around the country and find out how many are admitted to the ER and for what. Or ask people if they are getting new prescriptions, or if exercising outside is more difficult since the wildfires started. Data like this is exactly what is necessary to determine the effects of our behaviors on the world and what things we can change to make a difference.

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Something is in the Water

Climate scientists spend a lot of time studying the past to predict the future. Now, you might be recalling all the times we’ve talked about the danger of thinking you can figure out the future just by studying the past. That certainly stands, but the fact is, you have to start somewhere. Going back to what has come before can provide a valuable baseline for understanding how one thing affects another and can contribute to the development of the climate over time. 

One of the places scientists go to help understand the climate of past ages is the ocean, specifically the ocean bottom. They collect samples and study them for levels of a variety of different elements including calcium, strontium, magnesium, lithium, barium, and several more. These can give a snapshot of the past, giving scientists an idea of how much carbon is present in the ocean, the rate at which the crust is breaking down and more. However, these results might have been skewed because they left out contributions of groundwater. 

Some scientists have brought up the idea that groundwater might be contributing these elements to the ocean but those concerns have typically been dismissed as insignificant. That, however, has changed with a new study by Kimberley Mayfield. The University of California doctoral candidate did her thesis on the subject. She built a library of hundreds of groundwater samples by begging them off of anyone she could. While still preliminary, that study shows that a surprising amount of the above elements are getting into the ocean from the groundwater when it leaches out into the rivers. 

This is also important for the climate in other ways as these elements also contribute to the growth of phytoplankton near the mouths of rivers. Phytoplankton are tiny little critters that form the basis of significant parts of the food chain. When there are more of them, it can help fuel populations of other species of marine life. However, if other factors are depressing the fish population, the plankton can grow out of control and wind up using other resources and wind up choking out other life. 

No doubt Mayfield’s study will help drive other work that will improve our understanding of the ocean and its effect on the climate. It’s also a good illustration of the TARTLE model at work. No, she didn’t use TARTLE but what she did is use a system that isn’t very different. In getting groundwater samples from many different people in many different walks of life, she unknowingly adopted a very TARTLE-like process. She solicited data straight from the source and used it to draw her conclusions. 

Future researchers can do the same through TARTLE’s digital marketplace. What’s more, it would be possible to conduct research into what is going into the groundwater. By asking users to share data on how much bleach, detergent, and other household items they use, scientists could get a solid picture of how much of all of that is getting into the groundwater. That information could then be combined with data from groundwater samples. If the process is repeated for several regions it would be possible to see clearly how much environmental impact one person has based on his daily habits. We would actually be able to develop a more accurate climate model using information that covers every stage from the manufacturing of various products, to those products being used, to the groundwater and out into the ocean. This kind of analysis has become possible only recently but it will be sure to be invaluable in the near future. That’s the kind of thing TARTLE makes possible, we open up the opportunity for average people to contribute to the greater understanding of the world we live in and how we affect it. 

What’s your data worth? Sign up and join the TARTLE Marketplace with this link here.

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