Sober is the recent UNEP report (Global Environmental Outlook 5) unveiled on World Environment Day (5 June 2012). The GEO-5 report announces that only four of the 90 internationally defined goals for improving the world’s declining environmental trends showed any progress.
Only 2.25% of the agreed upon world goals for fixing the Earth’s life support system are demonstrating some progress. The world’s collective will to address life-threatening conditions has yielded a 2.25% score on a very well articulated report card. Al Gore was not consulted, therefore it will be difficult to accuse UNEP of a left-wing plot to upset our collective amnesia and corpulent lifestyles.
Those who have followed the series of GEO reports will recognized the inexorable declining trend in our planet’s ecological goods and services and the residual impact on society that these trends portend. Those who possess, or are inclined to investigate further, this GEO global knowledge may experience a profound sense of malaise-déjà vu, which can whelm an otherwise sunny optimistic disposition.
Ten years ago at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, I had the privilege of a front row seat as the GEO 3 report, completed under my watch at UNEP, was presented to the 192 member nations. The scientific consensus, developed with hundreds of experts from around the world to calculate the Earth’s report card, documented that our life-support systems were on a serious decline. Interestingly, when the GEO 3 report was being presented, so was the world’s first debut of two Digital Earth prototypes; KeyHole Technology, which became Google Earth and GeoFusion technology, which became Arc GeoExplorer.
I had arranged for the showing of these Digital Earth technologies to offer the assembled world leaders a directional guidepost for thinking how we might better report and comprehend our Earth systems’ trends and conditions. The thought, following on from Al Gore’s visionary 1998 speech, was that if the world’s citizens were collectively watching what we were doing to our planet then by golly we had a decent chance at turning things around. The juxtaposition of a horrific Earth report card and the promise of a new vision for an engaged and empowered Digital Earth citizenry has resonated in my psyche ever since.
Now with the Earth Summit convening in Rio de Janeiro for (Rio +20) this month I remain haunted by the yin and yang of pathos, ethos and logos, while standing in the technology corridors waiting for the critical mass to energize the needed response requisite to shift the onslaught of destructive trends and actions. While the police sweep up the Rio slums to present the city’s best face in front of the professional legions of Earth ambassadors, I reflect on the possibilities that a progressive and collaborative, or at least directional effort can have on our stressed life-support system.
What will we talk about in Wellington this September as a result of the accomplishments, agreements, and accords that will be heralded from Rio?
Happily, at this forthcoming convening of incredibly talented and creative new age saviors meeting in Wellington for the 4th Digital Earth Summit, I expect to engage with delightful and dedicated positive people to help us fine tune our understanding of what it will take to harness the DE vision and architecture to best serve the dystrophic human and planetary conditions.
My emphasis is on the phenomenal opportunity to turn the Earth’s denizens into active and passive citizen scientists and stewards for monitoring our planet.
The Twenty-first Century is proliferating with technological and analytical prowess enabling organizations the capacity for pseudo-omniscience in locational command and control. The interesting take on this fast evolving trajectory is the incorporation of vast amounts of voluntary, albeit unwittingly voluntary, citizen-propagated data that provides a multiplying effect to current technological capacities.
From tracking the outbreak of disease, to tracking the trade and monetary strategies, to targeting terrorist activities or assessing locations of vibrant social uprisings, the new spatial-demographic-crowdsourcing capabilities are just beginning to be effectively harnessed.
As a veteran of the early US Department of Defense development days and a current member of an international society dedicated to pushing the envelope I am interested in helping explain how our society arrived at our current setting and where we can expect the technology touch points to exist in the exciting domain of geo-tagging and geospatial analytics in a digital Earth.
I remain excited about the New Zealand hosting of 4th Digital Earth Summit 2012. I have found Kiwis’ unique epistemology and bonhomie a welcomed contribution for conceptualizing a better world. New Zealanders owe much to their geography and recent culture amalgamation. The 1st DE Summit 2006 in Auckland offered excellent international dialogs about all things possible. I trust that others will bring their best ideas and experiences to the gathering in September.