Greening of the World
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.
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?
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?
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?
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.
What’s your data worth?
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?
It looks like 2020 was Europe’s warmest year on record, going up 0.72F over the previous year. Well, that’s Europe, right? Sure. Worldwide, 2020 tied with 2016 as the warmest year. Which puts us at 2.2F warmer on average than the planet was back in the pre-industrial period according to the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Now, I don’t care who you are, but that’s something that should get your attention.
How much should it get your attention? Well, sustained warmer temperatures mean more melting ice which could cause some problems for coastal areas in the near future. How long will that take? Perhaps the best answer to that question is, ‘why does that matter?’ Instead of asking whether we need to put up sandbags or the grandkids will, maybe the better question is, ‘what can we do about it?’
What indeed. After all, we’re just individuals who are trying to muddle through life as best as we can. We don’t set policy, most of us don’t control massive corporations that can make the necessary advances to minimize or even roll back pollution. However, we are still people who can influence all of that. How? By sharing our data. Sharing our behaviors, how much we produce and consume and exactly what it is that we produce and consume. That information can help organizations to see what policies are effective in incentivizing various behaviors and which are failing. It can also help guide companies concerned about the environment to see where there is a demand for different products that will help contribute to reducing carbon emissions.
A prime example is in transportation. Electric cars have been getting a lot of press lately, and not without reason. The advances in that realm have been significant. However, the process to produce the necessary batteries are not necessarily environmentally friendly. That process leads to a lot of heavy metal pollution, to say nothing of the fossil fuels needed to produce them. And of course, most of the power used to charge those batteries comes from either fossil fuel plants or inefficient wind farms. So, how can our data help drive alternatives?
If general dissatisfaction with the current situation is known, companies are more likely to research alternatives like hydrogen power. Already, it’s possible to add hydrogen power to a conventional vehicle as a supplement. Turning it into something that could power the whole vehicle is just a matter of scale.
Of course, city planners can also make use of data from the locals to change zoning laws, allowing for more small shops to exist in what are currently residential areas. Or more homes in shopping districts in the form of apartments above businesses or restored brownfield projects. These approaches incentivize people to drive less not through coercive penalties and burdensome taxes but by simply making it easier to walk to where you want to go. Instead of having to drive ten to twenty minutes to go to a grocery store or a coffee shop, a person could just walk out the front door for a ten-minute stroll.
Yes, those seem like small things that at best can make local life more pleasant. Yet, just like humanity is made of individuals, so the planet is made of particular places. If the environment improves in a number of those particular places, it will necessarily improve things for the planet as well.
So, what can you do? Sign up with TARTLE and make your data available to the policymakers and companies that are trying to improve the environment for you and your kids. Then, instead of taking the earnings, you can donate them back to the organization of your choice so they can get more quality data to make better decisions and recommendations. That’s how it works, one small action at a time.
What’s your data worth?
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is one of the greatest and most well-known pieces of classical music around. Nearly everyone (and I mean everyone) has heard at least some part of it whether they know it or not. The great composer wonderfully captures the feel of each season through sound. Spring is light and joyful, while winter is starker, more foreboding. It’s simply a masterpiece that orchestras around the world play on a regular basis. Now, several orchestras have taken on the task of interpreting Vivaldi’s great work in what can best be described as a novel approach.
The approach was developed with the help of AKQA, a communications and design group working in conjunction with data scientists to reflect predicted changes to the climate in the next fifty or so years. However, rather than making one composition that would be played everywhere, they used the algorithms they specially developed for the purpose to create hundreds of new versions, each designed to evoke the climate changes in various locations around the globe. The one for Shanghai is actually completely silent. That’s because the computer models they were using show that city being underwater by then. No, I’m not sure how many tickets they plan on selling. Some sort of original introit describing the fall of the city might be more interesting, but they didn’t ask me.
I digress. The point of the exercise is to alert people to the kinds of changes that might be coming their way, even within their own lifetimes. The team that developed these new renditions of The Four Seasons will be working with orchestras around the world to perform their work, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra having signed to perform the first public rendition. Where it goes from there is less important than any effect it might have on those who listen to it. Will it actually encourage the listeners to care about and take some sort of action on the environment? And if so, how?
Very often, the way people take action on the environment is to vote for a politician or maybe take up a particular cause. Well, no policy is going to fix everything, no amount of money thrown at the problem is going to just make it go away. What will change things is changing your own behaviors.
Want fewer carbon emissions? Keep your house a couple degrees cooler in the winter and ride your bike to the corner gas station ten minutes away instead of driving twenty to get to the grocery store for that gallon of milk. Or install geothermal heating. Worried about straws? Instead of switching to a paper one, don’t use one at all. After all, someone had to cut down a tree for the paper straw.
Speaking of straws, if you are a restaurant, at least try to be consistent. Right when the straws were a big deal in the news I went to a restaurant that had signs proclaiming their commitment to not using plastic straws. And then they brought my drink in a plastic cup and when I got my food, I ate it with plastic cutlery. You can’t make this stuff up.
What else? Encourage people to take care of the things that are right in front of them. It’s a lot easier to point out the landfill down the road, or the river you want to keep clean and get people to care about keeping that in good condition than it is to get them to take drastic action based on a computer model. It’s too abstract for most.
In a way, that’s what the people behind this new interpretation of Vivaldi are trying to do, to make the abstract tangible. However, if you really want to change things, start with your own behaviors and help others to make better decisions on their own. With enough people changing their behaviors in that way, it will have a much bigger effect on global climate, while improving things in your local area, too.
Naturally, one thing you can do is to share your behaviors through TARTLE. That way, businesses and researchers can determine what kind of policies are working, or might work, what products people are buying to minimize their environmental impact and what particular issues most people care about. Your data can help with all of this and more.
What’s your data worth?
The Magnificent Seven
TARTLE focuses on a lot of different things. We obviously focus on data, on using it to help others, on being Sherpas rather than glory hounds, on reaching out across lines, building bridges, etc. But what if we could narrow it down? Well, that’s what we did. We narrowed down our chief areas of concern to seven things we are trying to encourage and develop in order to build a better world for the future. Here they are.
1: Climate stability – That’s an unusual term. What does it mean? It means primarily minimizing the impact that we have on the climate in general and the local environment specifically. It certainly doesn’t mean keeping the climate the same all the time, it doesn’t work like that. Natural cycles happen. What we mean is not disrupting it. And one clear way to do that is to take better care of the environment near you. One way TARTLE can help with that is by sharing data across the world to find ways to solve whatever problem you are dealing with in your area.
2: Educational access – Wouldn’t it be better if more people had more access to more information? That is exactly what we are about here at TARTLE. We want to help people learn from the mistakes of others, building wisdom and solving problems to build a better society. The data marketplace is constructed with exactly that purpose in mind.
3: Human rights – By its very name, it’s clear that human rights are inherent in what it is to be human. That means everyone, everywhere has the same basic human rights no matter where they live. Just as an example, being able to be educated and living in an environment that isn’t falling apart should fall under the category of human rights.
4: Peace – One would think that as we solve problems around the world, increasing people’s access to knowledge and encouraging the growth of human rights, peace would be a natural result. Our drive to decentralize is also important here, as without significant power centers that people try to protect and expand, as we see each other more as individuals rather than rivals there will necessarily be less conflict. Even when conflict does arise it will be more like a squabble between neighbors rather than a battle between nations.
5: Public health – With more peace comes more resources. Both because we are not devoting resources to fighting each other but also because peace will allow more time to work on developing other, more productive resources. Since one of the main fields TARTLE works with is the medical field, we at least are certain to use many of those additional resources to improve medicine and treatments for all, helping people to live not just longer, but happier as well.
6: Government and corporate transparency – While we hope to work towards a more decentralized society, the fact is that we will still delegate some of the tasks of running a society to some form of government and businesses will still exist until the asteroid hits. Even then, people would rise out of the ashes and form new governments and businesses as soon as possible. What we are promoting is having politicians and businessmen who understand they are there to serve, not to take whatever they can for themselves.
7: Economic equalization – With greater peace and stability comes the opportunity to also lift everyone up, to help out everyone so that no one has to live a life of poverty.
Does this all seem rather optimistic? Perhaps, but we believe people are capable of amazing things, of overcoming incredible odds and doing the impossible. We believe that getting people to get to actual, real, source data will play an important part in that. It starts with us, it starts with you.
What’s your data worth?
Data Accuracy and Climate
Few topics in the modern day are more contentious than that of climate change. Well, let’s face it, almost every topic is contentious today but climate change has been the subject of much debate for decades and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. This fact has just recently been demonstrated yet again by a recent study released by Bjorn Lomborg that looks at the effects of climate change. One part in particular is interesting, which would be the graph.
The graph in question shows the number of deaths related to climate plotted out from 1920 to 2020. Climate-related deaths here means anything involving flood, droughts, wildfires, extreme hot or cold temperatures, and storms. This graph has garnered a great deal of attention because it shows the deaths going from around 250 per million per year in 1920 to virtually none today. Many people are looking at this graph and deciding that climate change isn’t anything to be concerned about.
On the face of it, this isn’t a totally unreasonable conclusion. However, there are a couple of important points to emphasize. The first and most significant is that no one should be reaching conclusions about anything based on one graph, or on any other single point of data for that matter. The second point is related, one graph, while reflecting something true doesn’t necessarily take any number of other data points into consideration.
What do we mean? First, for the sake of argument, we’ll take the numbers presented for granted, that the numbers of climate-related deaths for each year are what the graph says they are. After all, the article is only a few pages and there isn’t time or space here to dig deep into the methodology. Second, we should stop and consider some reasons that climate-related deaths might have gone down other than climate change not being a thing. After all, even if we don’t take other factors into consideration, the graph doesn’t really argue against the idea of climate change. Rather, it would seem to argue that climate has gotten better, which virtually no one believes.
What are some of these other factors we should consider? These are mostly centered on the fact we have made a lot of material advances in the last hundred years. Our medical treatments have improved by leaps and bounds since 1920, dramatically improving life expectancies. We live longer and healthier so what once might have been major changes in air quality or temperature swings can be managed by individuals much better than before. Housing for vast numbers of people has improved as well. While once, a major thunderstorm could have destroyed rudimentary shacks out on the prairie killing everyone inside, now there are sturdy homes with concrete basements that can handle anything short of a tornado. Disaster response has also gotten much better. While today, helicopters deliver pallets of sandbags to flood zones practically on demand or patrol areas looking for people to rescue, or airplanes dump tons of water scooped out of a local lake onto a wildfire, such technology didn’t even exist outside of a notebook in 1920. Related to that is the fact there have been major migrations to the cities which by their nature are less susceptible to climate-related issues. A big contributor to that is the rise in quality and affordable heating and cooling. In 1920, the relief from a blistering hot summer was a breeze or a cool stream, not turning up the AC. It’s the same with heating. How many people froze to death in 1920 while it is practically unheard of today?
None of these things seem to be considered in this graph of death rates, yet factors like this are necessary to get the whole picture. That’s why TARTLE is such a proponent of getting accurate data from as many direct sources as possible. When you are dealing with large samples of high quality source data, you get a better and less skewed view of the whole picture.
What’s your data worth?
2020 was an interesting year to be sure. We had disease, civil unrest around the world, government intrigue, and even aliens (sort of). We had almost everything except zombies and the four horsemen. One thing we definitely had a lot of was fire. It started at the beginning of the year in Australia. The island continent has regular forest fires just like the western United States does every year. The fires of 2020 were uniquely bad though, getting so bad that in some places, it literally rained fire.
And speaking of the western US, things got crazy there for a while during the summer. Again, there are wildfires in California, Colorado, and elsewhere every year. 2020 though, saw days that were black as night from the ash, nights that were glowing red from the flames, deep red sunsets in the Midwest thanks to the massive amounts of ash in the upper atmosphere and even fire tornadoes. Yes, fire tornadoes. A person could be forgiven for thinking that the world was ending or at least that the millions of acres burning were setting new records.
Obviously from a climate perspective that’s bad. Millions of trees burned down, resulting in a massive loss of the planet’s capability to process CO2, not to mention the millions of tons of carbon added to the atmosphere thanks to the fires. Yet, what does that data show?
While there were definitely massive amounts of land cleared by flame in some areas, even record-setting amounts, that isn’t the whole story. As the data shows, the amount of forests burned down during 2020 was actually less than it was the previous year. So, there was some good news in 2020 after all.
As good as the news that we didn’t burn down half the trees on the planet is, it begs the question – how? One option that comes to mind is that maybe there is just less forest to burn. It would stand to reason given that we keep cutting trees down and hundreds of thousands of acres burn down in a good year that eventually there is just less to burn overall. Fortunately, the data shows that is not the case. The truth is that we are getting better at managing the forests.
Over the years, we have learned through solid data analysis that there are various ways to manage our forests to mitigate the risk from forest fires. These include establishing firebreaks, strips of land that don’t have any trees, to ensure that should a fire start it will only burn down a section of the forest instead of the whole state. Then there are the controlled burns and clearing out of the underbrush that we’ve been doing more of over the last couple of decades. These techniques starve a potential fire of the dry and readily available fuel that can turn a small fire that can be contained in a few hours into a blazing inferno that takes weeks to deal with.
TARTLE can help improve these techniques or find new ones through the data marketplace. With people already signed up all over the world, we can help uncover fire mitigation methods that are incredibly effective but might be unknown just because they were developed in an African village. With a tool like TARTLE that kind of information can be found and improved upon and put into practice.
We can also help identify the activities that we’re doing that are making fires more frequent and worse or are increasing the damage they cause. There may be types of consumption that contribute to forest fires, or it’s possible we could predict where they would be more likely and either avoid building near those areas or at least better protect ourselves and the forest when we do.
The possibilities to find new solutions to old problems with TARTLE are endless. When buyers and sellers plug into our marketplace they are plugging into a tool that can and will be used to help improve the lives of all of us.
What’s your data worth?