Visualizing data

Stop press: Google bought Gapminder yesterday. Thanks Patchwork Planet. Still no sign of any good Ag data though.

Google has started hosting Gapminder, a wonderful tool for visualizing development data developed by a Swedish NGO. Here’s an example of what you can do with it. Worth playing around with. But to see a master at work, check this out. There are only a few variables at the moment, but wouldn’t it be great if one day the data in FAOSTAT were to be added? Anyone want to volunteer to do the mash-up?

Accessing biodiversity in Brazil

Brazil has new procedures in place (called Sisbio) to issue licences to collect biodiversity for teaching and research, according to an article on SciDevNet. They are supposed to make the whole access system much easier to navigate. And faster: what used to take up to two years should now take 45 days at most. This bit struck me in particular:

Scientists will eventually be able to use Sisbio to access satellite images of potential research areas and gauge research activity in areas so they can better plan their research.

Diversity and deep thoughts

We don’t normally go in much for philosophizing here, because by and large that’s something that I, at any rate, feel is best left to those with the time and inclination to think deep thoughts. However, there’s an interesting little spat brewing over in the further reaches of the blogosphere at Y Safle (which labels itself “pretentious waffle from Wales”). At issue is whether environmentalism and international development work against each other. One of the commenters seems to have got hold of completely the wrong end of the stick. I won’t attempt to summarize the arguments, which seem to hinge on exactly how one lets market forces operate, but if you’ve a moment or two, why not take a look?

How to halt desertification

IRD in France has released the results of a long study of the Jeffara region of Tunisia, which has been very prone to desertification. The study pinpoints the role of agriculture and the use of natural resources as key factors in the spread of deserts, but acknowledges the very complex interactions at work. The press release concludes:

“[D]egradation can be checked by prohibiting the development of endangered natural environments for cultivation. However, real practical alternatives must in that case be proposed to farmers, in the agriculture sector, through maintenance of a certain diversified production in their holdings and enhancing commercial value of high-quality local or regional produce, but also by means of diversification of activities and of sources of revenue other than farming. This diversification would offer people improved flexibility to face up to climatic and economic hazards and enable them to manage better their families’ financial resources. In addition, the effort government has made in water management, through the CES, could be enhanced by schemes for desalinating brackish water and recycling waste water.”

But can they find a way to diversify and add value before the farmlands, soils and water have vanished completely?