Thursday, October 16, 2014

Can technology save the planet?

A provocation from WWF's chief scientist John Hoekstra that's exactly where I end up in my new post over at Edge Effects. It's a fun intro to quantum computing that backs into a discussion of the assessment and geodesign software tools that conservationists are deploying around the world to better measure restoration interventions, track environmental change, and fight back against environmental crimes like illegal logging. Ultimately, I'm less sure than Hoekstra that the answer to his question is a resounding yes.

The post comes right on the heels of a few interesting stories out the past few days. First, yesterday the Natural Capital Project has launched a MOOC, where you can learn about their toolset. I've written speculatively about some of those tools here before, but it's great to have the chance to go behind the scenes. Second, Hoekstra held a Twitter-mediated conversation last week during SXSWEco, discussing the potential for drones, big data analytics, and other emerging technologies to, well, save the planet. I'm not even convinced yet that what we're seeing conservation right now qualifies as big data - the term seems loosely applied - but Hoekstra led an important conversation about how to do big data in conservation while recognizing issues of security, digital divides, and privacy.

So check out the post, and be sure to bookmark or follow Edge Effects while you're at it. It's an amazing new site run by grad students affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Culture, History, and Environment