We are facing massive environmental crises that are intertwined with our current way of consumption and living. The complexity and scale of these problems can be disempowering, making individual positive action seem directionless and futile.
However, we can take appropriate action and measure the difference we make by using data to understand our environment, to help build evidence-based arguments for change and to hold people to account – whether it’s through seeing the impact of switching electrical devices off (and not leaving them on standby), understanding the air pollution around us so that we can make more environmentally sound choices, or by making sure our waste is recycled appropriately.
This month we’re showcasing initiatives that are using data to help the environment through tracking waste, energy monitoring and pollution, with presentations from:
There has been a lot of emphasis in the open data movement on access to data that shines a light on the workings of government or allows the creation of mobility applications. Data that gives us insight into the environment in which we live, work and play tends to be little used yet offers huge potential in enabling people to understand and act on local environmental issues.
The Freedom of Information Act giving people the right to data that public bodies hold is well known but there is little understanding of legislation that gives people the right to access environmental data. The Environmental Information Regulations give people the power to ask for data on a host of environmental issues, yet unlike their FOIA cousins are under-utilised. Is it that EIR is too complex and little understood or is it that the data that is held is incomplete or difficult to use?
In mitigation of this there is a growing army of people who are taking matters into their own hands be exploring, mapping and creating environmental data that is more relevant to their communities. Low cost ‘easy to use’ sensors can be deployed , networked, fitted to smart phones and the data aggregated to provide a more comprehensive picture of our environment.
This months Open Data Manchester is a chance to look at some of the initiatives that have been taking place recently. It will be an opportunity to discuss why we need access to environmental data and how people can come together to map their own communities.