Satellites are able to take the measure of our planet in ways that are essentially impossible from the ground. Both NASA in the United States and ESA in Europe are devoting considerable effort to expanding their Earth-observing satellite fleets. The results of these efforts are quite often worldchanging in the best possible ways.
The European Environment Agency, working with the ESA's Earth Observation Directorate, is set to publish a broad set of data based on satellite studies of land use data in Europe. Part of the ESA's Global Monitoring for Environment & Security program, the land use information will be of great value to both leaders and citizens.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, believes remote sensing from space opens plenty of new ground. She takes flooding as an example: “Based on satellite observations of actual floodings in recent years we will be able to see some trends. We can point out which areas are at higher risk of future flooding, and we can analyse how roads and other forms of sealing of the soil will impact flooding.
"This information is obviously of interest to policy makers. At the same time information on flooding will attract attention from people living in these areas. They might not be so interested in the overall trends but they want to know 'Will my house be flooded?' Similarly people might want to check a number of other environmental developments in their neighbourhood."
We've said it before, but it's always worth reiterating: the more we know, the better the choices we'll make. We can no longer afford to be ignorant of the implications of our decisions. Projects like this are small but important steps towards understanding what we're doing to and with Earth's environment.
Natural disasters and ecological disasters are minor problems compared to far more pressing things.
The dollars invested in satelites for monitoring ecological crisis, are dollars that have not been spend in a "sustainable" or sensible way.
A good ranking of global problems shows that investing in prevention or early warning systems for ecological disasters is not very rational.
It's not a very good ranking, actually. It's a biased group with widely-recognized problems: