Earth ecosystems are increasingly monitored by human and technological means. The growing flows of data thereby harvested serve a wide spectrum of purposes ranging from practical services, such as meteorological forecast, to the enhancement of scientific knowledge in earth and natural sciences.
These data reveal a profound evolution of the environment, affecting current balances, putting many species at risk, and constituting a threat for humanity as well. They also demonstrate the impact of human activities on the earth system through the modification of the chemical composition of the atmosphere or the ocean for instance. There is a growing quest to find solutions to this considerable challenge, and at the same time a growing doubt that humanity is politically organized in an appropriate form.
The objective of this Atlas of Data is to investigate how the monitoring of the earth ecosystems works. We establish maps and visualisations of this global information system to study its laws (positive feedbacks, resistance, etc). Our purpose is also to evaluate if the present information system is adapted to the multiple challenges of climate change.
The Atlas of Data intends to become a resource for scientists, teachers, students and policy-makers that want to understand how production and consumption of data relate to our planet ecosystem. All resources published on this website will be released under Open Access license and made available for reuse in the public domain.
The appropriation by humans of a large part of the biosphere and the development of technological systems encompassing the whole planet has lead to an extreme intricacy between social and natural phenomena. Monitoring the earth ecosystem can therefore only be achieved by considering information collected from natural, human and technological activities.
So far, the integration between socio-economic and natural monitoring systems has been very limited. While here are very serious political reasons to resist further integration, weaker systems are also impeding key areas of monitoring activities - traceability and circulation of raw materials and products for instance. Such conflicting interests in human societies leading to new organizational mechanisms to redefine data production and integration.
In the last decades, very large digital systems have emerged, reaching billions of users and replacing crude oil as the biggest industrial capitalizations on financial markets. Their growth is based on positive feedback loops: the quality of their services increase with the number of their users and the quantity of data they control. Such feedback loops exist in the meteorological industry, but are absent from most global ecosystems monitoring capacities.
Take inventory of the different forms taken by data on Earth will be an impossible task. Data avaibility is sporadic and many interesting information does not exist under a well-structured format. In this research, we select a few examples and approaches to provide a first set of insights that will help us refine a larger and more systematic approach for this ongoing investigation.
For more information about the Atlas of Data on Earth, please get in touch using the form on the right.
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