The start of something big - #PlanetData summary
On 29 November, we hosted #PlanetData - our response to the climate emergency, which was designed specifically to bring people together to share work, amplify, and collaborate. A lot has been said about the climate crisis but (outside of protests and demonstrations) not a lot has been done about it. This was the aim of #PlanetData - to shift energy from talking to doing.
We always try to make our events accessible to folk who can't attend in-person, so we live-streamed the talks from the whole day, which is now available as an archived video on our YouTube channel (alongside other videos from our fab events).
It's an impressive 6 hours of footage though, so continue reading for a summary of the day ;)
Paul Connell, founder of ODI Leeds, began with a brief introduction to what we do and what prompted us to host #PlanetData. It began with a tweet earlier in the year, where someone had lots of confidence in us and our ability to potentially make a nationwide carbon dashboard. Of course we were flattered, and made a start with a local carbon dashboard first. As the year progressed, we hosted an event called Hack For Impact where, unsurprisingly, the need to measure environmental impact was high on everyone's priorities. There was clearly a demand for more practical outcomes in relation to the climate. And so #PlanetData was born.
Following on from Paul was David Barns from Our Future Leeds. He described the current state of climate action and preparedness, and highlighted the sharp contrast of climate response within local government. For example, Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in March 2019, but by April 2019 they had shown approval for expanding Leeds Bradford Airport, despite air travel being a contributing factor in climate change. David was keen to focus positively on citizen action though, sharing the outcomes from the recent 'citizens jury on climate' that took place in Leeds over the summer.
Rather than try to recount every lightning talk word-for-word (the slides are on the website and the live-stream is on YouTube) we're going to talk about some of the themes that came up throughout the day.
Leeds, and West Yorkshire as a whole, is an active place for environmental research and projects. The region has a diverse landscape that is also fragile and susceptible to adverse weather events. So it's no surprise that some brilliant work is already taking place. Laura from The Environment Agency shared her experience as part of the team that monitors the Flood Alleviation Scheme in Leeds, talking about the data that is collected (a good majority of which is published openly) and the lessons learned from using GIS. Rob from Zero Waste Leeds spoke about the #LeedsByExample pilot that has been taking place across the city over the past year. With the mission of making Leeds a zero waste city by 2030, the Zero Waste Leeds team have been trialling all kinds of interesting, interactive, and engaging methods of getting more of the public to recycle on the go. They recently published the results of their efforts. Jamie from Bradford Council (one of our sponsors, and an active participant in the open data collaboration group and other ODI Leeds events) spoke about the city having a great amount of potential. He embraces the diversity of Bradford and feels that it can provide the kind of perspective that is currently missing from a lot of conversations about the climate. It is also an opportunity to reach those people in innovative ways. How can we use the data and assets that already exist to help people feel comfortable in their climate response? Patrick, our new apprentice, unveiled the flight emissions dashboard that he has been working on. Looking first to Leeds Bradford Airport (with potential to expand to other airports), he uses data about daily departures and type of aircraft then converts the carbon emissions into relatable terms, such as 'number of teas' or 'miles driven.' The sticky problem with flight emissions is that they are often excluded from carbon budgets. Who is responsible for the carbon - the airport, the departure point, or the arrival point? Jeremy and Mary from Northern Powergrid (one of our newest sponsors) also had something brand new to unveil. Our first project with them has been to develop an engaging visualisation for Distributed Future Energy Scenarios (DFES). It's important to understand the future of energy so that the potential demands on infrastructure and other systems can be predicted and prepared for. If we become a nation of electric vehicle owners, what will the extra demand for electricity look like? Or what happens if we increase sustainable energy production?
We're not a huge fan of reports here at ODI Leeds. They're slow to put together and often out of date by the time they're distributed, plus any data contained within can't easily be extracted for further scrutiny or use. So we absolutely love anything that re-imagines reporting. Fredrik from ClimateView joined us all the way from Sweden to talk about how they created their dashboard for climate action. He shared the all too familiar and woeful situation where important strategy or policy was distributed as weighty paper tomes. So they turned to hierarchies as a way to visualise the complex connections between the different areas of climate response, i.e. broad areas like transport and housing broken down into electric cars, more public transport, fuels, etc. This enables an 'all at once' kind of view, with the ability to explore for more detail. As an added bonus, the ClimateView dashboard can use data as part of the visualisation. Henry from the Trafford Data Lab shared another 'report-killer' geared towards local authorities. The climate emergency slide pack generator uses data available to create a set of slides (Powerpoint) with key graphics about emissions, carbon budget, etc. For example, in Leeds, dangerous levels of N02, PM10 and PM2.5 are clearly seen in Leeds city centre and along the main arterial motorways that surround the city.
A consistent problem with climate action is communication and engagement with the public. Involving people in the process is a way to reduce alienation and demonstrate that everyone can make a difference. Chris from Cambridgeshire Climate Emergency joined us to share his experiences of what it meant for Cambridgeshire to declare a climate emergency (as so many other local authorities have done). He was frustrated that so much data was either missing, of poor quality, or was not properly joined up to other datasets to make them useful. They have had success in uniting their communities and helping them realise that action can be taken, now they need more data. From Calderdale, Warren from Slow the Flow shared his story of hands-on natural flood management that went as far as using horses to pull equipment where vehicles just couldn't go. They relied on volunteers and they have found that in Calderdale (an area badly affected by flooding) people were very ready to take action. From the ODI Leeds team, Stuart shared a work-in-progress tool. The 'tree logger' (he thinks it's a regrettable name but the audience quite liked it) - will be a web-based tool that can help you map your local trees and add them to Open Street Map (which then creates open data that anyone can use). Additional features include a tree identifier, and a way to measure the height and width of a tree. These additional details could help with calculations about how trees help with carbon capture, based on work done by LEAF.
So what happens next?
Alongside the invaluable connections made during the day, we asked attendees to commit to just one thing they could do tomorrow that would enable further action. It could be as simple as sending an email to someone at their organisation to ask for data, or making a phone call, sharing links to useful resources, etc.
As we always do, all of the resources from the day will be kept online, free to access forever. We will keep adding new resources to the website, so please email us with anything that is useful and relevant. Add your action to the 'What will you do tomorrow?' document and see if anyone else can help, and add your data challenges or discoveries to the data surgery document. #PlanetData as an event is done (for now) but we will be keeping the conversations, and the energy, alive.