Open-Source Project Explores ‘Choke Point’ of Water, Food, & Energy Crises

Environmental issues can be complex and intimidating. The idea of running out of water, food, or energy is terrifying, but only confronting people with scary ideas of what could happen is often counterproductive. A joint project between environmental advocates and the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory hopes to use open-source data and investigative journalism to empower communities with facts instead.

Circle of Blue, a team of award-winning journalists and researchers reporting on water and other worldwide resource issues, and the LIGTT, a pioneer in bringing scientific solutions to critical global problems, have partnered to create Choke Point: Index, the first dynamic, open-source data and on-the-ground journalism project to explore the globally significant competition between water, food, and energy.

choke point index

Image via Circleof Blue

Huge amounts of information exist, from satellite imaging to real-time river flows and on-the-ground stories of success and failure. However, the mountains of historical and streaming data are largely inaccessible, stored separately across public, private, and academic institutions around the world. Likewise, many are published online, but in formats that are difficult to use or not connected.

Choke Point: Index hopes to remedy this disconnect, reinforcing real-time reporting with open-source data and mobile technologies, and ultimately putting a face on complicated issues that affect every nation’s economy, environment, and security.

“Solutions — and policy decisions — at the scale and speed that the world needs require the ability to understand the impact and immediacy of constantly changing global resource challenges, particularly water quality and scarcity,” said Shashi Buluswar, executive director of LIGTT. “In order to respond effectively, we need to understand the complexities, the connections, and what’s happening on the front lines. Choke Point: Index taps into the exciting new era of data exploration. Solutions and nimble innovations around the world are born from the data and stories, from the smallest communities to the largest urban centers.”

Among the principle data gathering and visualization tools, Choke Point: Index will use the latest technologies from Google, particularly Fusion Tables in Google Drive, to bring together and visualize large data sets that can be shared openly. Circle of Blue was among the first users of Fusion Tables.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog