It was reported in the news yesterday that a young pilot whale died in Thailand after ingesting over 80 plastic bags (17 kgs). On the other side of the world, Guatemala’s Fuego volcano suddenly erupted overnight, killing at least 25 people and injuring hundreds more. Meanwhile, extensive wildfires have broken out across northern New Mexico and southern Colorado (USA) in one of the earliest starts to the fire season due to an exceptionally warm and dry winter season across the region.
As we celebrate World Environment Day, these events serve as strong reminders that we live on a planet where environmental hazards, both natural and human-induced, are lurking at every corner.
GEO envisages a future in which decisions and actions for the benefit of humankind are informed by coordinated, comprehensive and sustained Earth observations (EO). In the GEO 2016-2025 Strategic Plan, it states that society today is facing unprecedented challenges related to the environment, such as food, water and energy security, resilience to natural hazards, and sustainability of ecosystem services, all of which are exacerbated by climate change.
GEO is working towards the provision of open, timely and reliable EO data and information to assist local, regional and global efforts to manage and respond to these environmental challenges.
One way in which GEO is realizing its vision is by strengthening monitoring frameworks for international policy through the provision of relevant EO. The GEO Work Programme includes activities along these lines, such as the Earth Observations for Sustainable Development Goals (EO4SDG) Initiative that is launching pilot projects in cooperation with United Nations (UN) custodian agencies to supplement statistical analyses with EO in the assessment of specific SDG indicators.
The GEO Data Access for Risk Management Initiative (GEO-DARMA) is supporting the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction through country-specific pilot projects that illustrate the value of EO in all phases of disaster risk management. Additionally, the Geohazard Supersites and Natural Laboratories (GSNL) is promoting a voluntary partnership to improve geophysical research and geohazard assessments in support of disaster risk reduction at sites prone to seismic and volcanic activity around the world.
Finally, and related to the earlier story from yesterday, the GEO Oceans and Society: Blue Planet Initiative is responding to calls to address the deteriorating conditions of the world’s oceans by advocating for the coordination and use of EO to identify and track zones of pollution from plastic and other waste materials.
These are only a few of the multiple activities which illustrate how GEO is working to connect the demand for sound and timely environmental information with the supply of data and information about the Earth. Ultimately, we all want to work together to make our planet a better place to live, both for present and future generations.
Blog post: World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought 2018 – GEO Land Degradation Neutrality Initiative