Using semantic web to build environmental application

Explore our planet is a nifty site. It is utilizing the RDF-based Geo-names which anyone can use (creative commons licence). Geo-names is a fabulous semantic web data-set and Explore our planet is one open way of exploring this to put attention on emerging environental issues by layering them on top of Google maps (for now).

It provides REST web access. It is good for developing web applications that require access to GIS data, geocode and similar functionality as ArcGIS.


What can we do - make wedges

I browsed in the september 2006 issue of Scientific american and got my eyes on article called "a plan to keep carbon in check" by Solow and Pacalah. The present a pragmatic way of dealing with GHG and without choking economic global growth. they have developed a concept called "stabilisation wedge" which makes it more tractable to build emission reduction strategies and stabilize it by 2050.

The other interesting thing with their approach is the fact that it spreads the risk by having a broad spectrum portfolio which is important in order to achieve long-term sustainability (ie not betting everything on nuclear energy or carbon sequestration).

The group at Princeton Environment Institute, focus on Carbon Mitigation and the Wedge concept is described in detail on their site. They also give fifteen examples of wedges that can be used now. Their material is available in several forms, games, interactive presentations and so on. How would an emission reduction strategy look for your country ?


What can I do ?

There is a new book coming out soon from Worldchanging.com which looks promising. It covers
the following things (list cited directly from their site):

  • "You (which presents introductory materials and covers basic approaches for changing our thinking and designing our lives to be more worldchanging);

  • Stuff (which covers topics like green design, biomimicry, sustainable food, clothing, trade and technology);

  • Shelter (covering topics like green building and landscaping, clean energy, water, disaster relief and humanitarian design);

  • Cities (topics like smart growth, sustainable communities, transportation, greening infrastructure, product-service systems, leapfrogging and megacity challenges);

  • Communities (topics like education, women's rights, public health, holistic approaches to community development, South-South science, social entrepreneurship and micro-lending, and philanthropy);

  • Business (topics like socially responsible investment, worldchanging start-ups, ecological economics, corporate social responsibility and green business);

  • Politics (topics like networked politics, new media, transparency, human rights, non-violent revolution and peacemaking);

  • Planet (the big picture -- everything from placing oneself in a bioregion to climate foresight to environmental history to green space exploration)."

  • I am actually looking forward to reading this. Fritiof Capra has been arguing for this for a long time and has actually done a lot of projects at his ecoliteracy center. I do not know if he is a contributor to this book though. If you haven't read anything by Capra you should (but feel free to skip "The Tao of Physics"). His actual message becomes more prevalent from "The Turning Point" and onwards.

    Besides that I think books by Vaclav Smil are good and as a start you might consider "Energy" published by oneworld. It is consise and to the point and really lives up to being a beginners guide to Energy. After that you might tackle his more ambitious books. For a balanced but highly debated book there is "The Sceptical Environmentalist" by social scientist (and Greenpeace member) Björn Lomborg. The debate can be read in full at the previous link but mainly it has been scientists that has pointed out flaws in but his method and numbers.