Satellite vision could protect our planet

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Happy Friday, Below the Fold!

Sometimes we just need to examine a problem from another angle, through a different lens, or from different perspectives. Opening access to satellite data is allowing us to do just that for big scale problems like disappearing groundwater and river shrinkage and help us hold the perpetrators responsible.

50 years of satellite data holds the power to protect Earth
Sun May 30


NASA made headlines in 2013 when their satellites showed how the world is depleting its groundwater with 21 of the 37 largest underground reservoirs being drawn from too quickly to be replenished, especially with climate change. Since then, more and more stories have emerged of communities around the globe suffering as their water sources dry up, often from human activity.

For example, almost 80% of the Amazon’s Xingu River water flow is gone following a dam that redirected it to a reservoir for hydropower generation. With an anemic river, local communities are losing their source of fish, transportation, and even their landscape as trees and plants dry out. Despite outcry from impacted Indigenous communities, the local government has sided primarily with the utilities and mining companies behind the dam who cite profit loss if they sacrifice any water use. The companies also claim that there’s no scientific evidence behind the communities’ arguments.

But there is proof — and it’s coming from above. For 50 years satellites have been monitoring changes to Earth’s landscapes, monitoring forest cover, drought, wildfire damage, desert expansion and more. With industry continuing to drive the biggest threat to our natural resources, accessible satellite data can offer:
  • Information that can help us predict trends and events in our climate and geology so that we might prepare.
  • Ways to monitor changes and provide hard evidence for fighting against damaging actions. For example, NASA’s GRACE-FO satellites use sensors to understand changes in gravitational pull to measure changes in bodies of water.
  • And provide real-time information on major natural threats. It’s already used to detect icebergs that could damage moving ships.
So why aren’t we using this data? Researchers are pushing to make use of this highly valuable data and for greater accessibility to it (free access). And just last month, DataCosmos was unveiled. The platform intends to combine earth observation data from satellites, drones, and sensors and process the imagery within seconds to provide users with an easy way to access, download, and process.
BELOW THE FOLD BYTES

The (Literal) Misinformation Police

 
As the world continues to grapple with false and misleading information online, some states are getting creative. Connecticut is now allocating a $150,000 salary for its first-ever expert tasked with combating misinformation. The expert will be scanning through fake news and far-right news sources to root out misinformation and push the hosting platform to remove or flag the post, all before the posts go viral. Colorado has already followed a similar path, hiring cybersecurity experts to monitor such sites.

>> Read More

Water Scarcity Prompting Violence

 
In Mexico, the security team of a 425 year-old winery were threatened with machetes by unknown men who were angry over water scarcity. The men took possession of the winery’s water distribution network even though the winery was in compliance with water reduction measures and permitting requirements. Still, with 57% of Mexico in drought, tensions are overflowing. Locals believe they have water rights by a 1930’s presidential decree while companies are buying up that water, resulting in large protests.

>> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week

 
Want to start detecting fake news on your own? Simon Fraser University has helpful graphics on how to spot fake news in eight simple steps.
THIS WEEK'S SOURCES
The Conversation:
The case for satellite data
1 month old | 9 minutes long
NASA satellite findings
7 years old | 5 minutes long
New space startup
5 days old | 5 minutes long
Satellite observance
12 years old | 2 minutes long
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If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?

Well, the satellite data says it probably does but more importantly, the data shows it’s falling because the soil is dried out without the river running near it!

Art Credit:
ASCII Art Archive
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