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obama_climate_change
“We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.” – President Obama, Second Inaugural Address, January 2013

This past October, only 67% of Americans believed that global warming is affecting the world, according to a pole by Pew Research Center. On a list of 20 world issues that the Congress and president needed to focus on, global warming ranked number 19 according to Americans.

In response to this, President Obama is currently working on a website that will enable Americans to view how the ever-changing climate is affecting their own regions and hometowns. John D. Podesta, Obama’s counselor, believes that “localizing this information gives a sense of how this affects people and spurs actions. If you’re thinking…how your local community will be affected, it’s likely to change that question of salience.”

Podesta and John P. Holdren, the White House science adviser, formed the idea of climate.data.gov, which strives to illustrate data of calculated wildfires, dangerously rising sea levels and dry spells.

Their website is based on urgency and helping Americans to understand the necessity of focusing on the environment; it is also based on the necessity to prepare Americans for the affect that the damaged climate will have in the future. The Obama administration is currently helping governments to strengthen their methods of transportation, such as bridges, shorelines and roads, so that the local community would be protected from dangerous changes in weather that are more common because of the climate change.

Obama stated that one of the most important steps to alleviating climate change is to reinforce international relations. In doing so the US will work with other countries to find a global solution to this global challenge and spread action through major countries that contribute to pollution emissions.

In the beginning stages, Podesta and Holdren’s website will merely feature information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the United States Geological Survey and the Defense Department. They are expecting the first revealed page to primarily focus on sea levels and eroding and flooding coastal lines.

Most people are aware of Google Maps and Google Earth, Google’s projects in which you can locate most addresses on the globe, and they are considering mixing their ability to map with the government’s information on climate change and risk measurements.

With this website the US population will have a greater chance to understand the imminent danger that climate change is bringing, and they will also have a visual representation of the potential harm it could bring their states and hometowns.

– Rebecca Felcon

Sources: White House, The New York Times, Climate Action Plan
Photo: Politico

Google_earth_shows_slums
Government officials in India are notorious for ignoring the millions of people who live in the slums near big cities. Sangli is one such city. Over 3,900 families occupy makeshift huts in Sangli and, for the first time, Good Earth is documenting their existence. International Aid Organizations are thrilled that these images will put a face, so to speak, to the thousands of people living in these slums. Now that the unbelievable conditions of the slums are documented for the world to see, Sangli officials are being held to a higher accountability and progress is being made towards providing real homes for those living in the slums.

These images make public the sanitation issues inherent in the slums, as occupants of the slum exist without access to toilets or faucets. When and if new buildings are constructed for those living in the slum, sanitation is one of the first problems that will be addressed.

Even though it would be easier to build a new community in the suburbs of Sangli, research shows that most people cannot afford to commute into the city every day for work. Those who previously moved to the suburbs to escape the slums actually ended up moving back within a short period of time. Shelter Associates, a nonprofit geared toward improving the lives of those living in slum conditions, plans to create living spaces that will mimic the communal environment slum occupants have grown accustomed to.

The reason why Shelter Associates is having difficulties following through with the new building plans is because the local government continues offer limited concern and attention to slum dwellers. For the most part, the Sangli government has acted as if these people do not exist. Now, with the images provided by Google Earth, Shelter Associates is hopeful that the government can no longer continue its negligence policies.

The slums in Sangli are not the only slum communities being exposed by Google Earth. Slums in Altos de Cazuca, Colombia (50,000 people), Comuna 13, Columbia (135,000 people), Kamagasaki, Japan (30,000 people per every 200 meter radius), Ashaiman, Ghana (200,000 people), Kibera, Kenya (170,000 – 250,000 people), Rocinha, Brazil (250,000 people), Sultanbeyli, Turkey (250,000 people), Petare, Venezuela (600,000 – 1 million people), Dharavi, India (1 million people), Sadr City, Iraq (2 million people), Orangi town, Pakistan (700,000 – 2.5 million people) and Neza-Chalco-Itza barrio, Mexico (4 million people) are now all shown on Google Earth.

Without these images, international aid organizations sometimes struggle to verbally describe the horrific conditions in the slums. Hopefully, Google Earth will be able to erase apathy towards those who live in these slums and support for aid efforts will grow.

– Mary Penn
Sources: Time, Business Insider