The Green Data Revolution

sentinel-2aFrom Satellites to Termites…

Flying high above the Earth’s poles are the two satellites of the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 program. Part of the Copernicus initiative  they are mapping Africa at 10m, 20m and 60m resolutions so as to  provide data to facilitate the creation of accurate maps for environmental management and to study the effects of climate change.

Root zone, Soil Moisture

For more than 30 years the ESA’s Living Planet Programme (Explorer missions, Earth Watch and Copernicus Sentinel missions) has remotely sensed and created a data archive on the Earth’s  climates, biomes and the processes that operate within them.

Mapping Africa’s Habitats

AfSISThese satellite archives are now being utilized by  The African Soil Information Service (AfSIS)  to describe Africa’s soil and landscape resources. It’s a project that will contribute to the development of sustainable agricultural systems that can feed the populace and co-exist with Africa’s wildlife.

Mapping 30 million km2 of the Earth’s terrestrial surface at a resolution of 250m2 is though a mammoth task that can only succeed with the effort of the crowd. So if you care about the elephants and lions, lend AfSIS your eyes, map a few km of Africa and help to make the World sustainable.  Join the crowd and map Africa’s habitats.

Digitizing the Herbarium 

Sustainable agricultural strategies need to be comprehensive and include details of the plants and animals that inhabit the land. This is particularly so for agricultural where poor crop choices and cultivation techniques can quickly and irreversibly rob the land of it’s soil, and water.  A situation that forces farmers to fell virgin forest and plough up natural grasslands in a repetition of the exercise. Many of the World’s deserts, including the largest, the Sahara, have been significantly expanded by this process of agricultural degradation.

Solanaceae-sourceProjects such as the International Plant Names Index, the World Flora online and the Solanaceae source are in the process of constructing comprehensive botanical databases for the 350,000 plant species that inhabit this planet.

Accessing Crop Data

With less than 100 plant species responsible for over 80% of the World’s raw material and food production, the digitization and access to bibliographic and research data on crops is essential if we are to achieve any semblance of agricultural sustainability. To this ends The ODI (Open Data Institute)  and GODAN (Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition) are both exploring what the challenges are and what the global priorities should be.

A Digital Zoo

nhmThe Natural History Museum are digitizing over 80 million specimens from their avian, entomological ,and botanical collections. Many of these collections include additional physiological and habitat data such as the Hostplants and Caterpillars  and the Host-Parasite databases.

Animal Husbandry 

Just as we cultivate a fraction of the Earth’s plants so we have domesticated fewer than 30 of its animals. The agriculturally significant have though been diversified into many and varied breeds each with it’s own characteristics and habitat requirements. I know of no plans to digitize and make details on the requirements, management, or impact of different livestock breeds and husbandry methods on the environment despite this information existing in abundance.

Crop Pests

plantwiseCABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) is the secretariat for GODAN and manages the plantwise project. Through the plantwise project CABI run clinics on pest and disease management and have similarly developed a searchable knowledge bank for pest identification.

Smart Data

Making use of this data and turning into something practical and useful was the remit of smartopendatathe smartopendata project. However both the web site and the final report are littered with unexplained acronyms [wtf?] and composed in a language that could well have been uttered by a Lewis Carroll character: “Hereafter, using this central core, the pilots extended the SmartO penData vocabulary to take into a account their own singularities. ”

That said, a Singularity, as in a technological/ digital singularity, is perhaps the correct adjective and conceptual framework to ‘think’ in when talking about smartdata for Agriculture and the Environment.

Let the Data Make the Decisions?

The Singularity in this sense is not an AI (artificial intelligence) but a singular objective [sustainability], within a single integrated application environment. An application environment that extends beyond basic crop and animal husbandry advice into a fully integrated service that can calculate and allocate water resources, greenhouse gas emissions or the potential for erosion. Services that can be further integrated with economic and socio-political objectives so that land and crop choices are efficiently made to meet market needs without over and under production. The same mechanism could be used to reward/compensate for mitigation strategies in the name of climate change and biodiversity objectives.

A digital singularity doesn’t  have a persona, a corporate or a national identity. With no concept of self it seeks the optimum solution based on the data supplied. The more comprehensive and far reaching that data the better the decisions that can be made using the singularity. A singularities decisions are however only as good as the data supplied; inaccurate, incomplete or misleading data, just as it does in real life, can lead to a catastrophe.

The Need for Education

Supplied with comprehensive and accurate data, a digital singularity can encourage sustainable practices, but for them to be adopted correctly a farmer needs to understand the reasoning behind the action. If global targets for climate change and habitat preservation are to be met then farmers need to be informed of the significance, understand the logic and gain tangible benefit from implementing a given strategy. Strategies that similarly require feedback (data input) from the farmers and that can only be achieved with the informed cooperation of those farmers, many if not most of which are illiterate.


Next Part II

Site News and facing reality

Today is phasm’s birthday. The site is now one year old and thus the hosting fees came up renewal. Whilst I managed to drag together enough funds to pay for 3 more months of web hosting, I did so by having to squeeze every penny out of every nook. An exercise that has left me totally broke. How I have made so little last so long is something few would believe to be true.

News of our monetisation attempts

For the last six months I have though been running an experiment with my personal blog Conceptual Reflections . Part of that experiment was to try and attract visitor whom I could earn from either directly through sponsorship or indirectly through advertising. I now realize that any idea that some visitors would pay/donate after reading is foolish.

Similarly whilst I was slow to finally decide to use advertising as a source of revenue, and it initially began to prove promising it seems changing algorithms with Google and Youtube can reduce traffic by over 90 % over night or as with my 99% reduction.

Thus it seems despite my best efforts to get Conceptual Reflections and my Youtube channel to be more productive and provide the means to continue the phasm concept I seem to constantly have to face new obstacles and challenges: and they slowly wear me out.

Facing Reality

This year has seen me earn less than £400 pounds and as a consequence I have, over the last seven months been reduced to living off the Charity of others.  One is both grateful and one is not, for in truth such an existence is little more than suffrage: with one reduced to a slave, a victim who is too poor to complain.

A wise man once said that death is preferable to taking the advice of a fool and I think he was correct. So unless my fortunes have a major turn around I will be forced to kill the site for death is prefereable to being another man’s slave.

I will keep the material up until the inevitable and it shall similarly remain free and open.. so if its useful.. download it whilst you can.

that;s all the news I have I’m afraid






Site News and Cameroon Rains

Well I promised that I would get the Le Blog Global going by the end of the month and for this it’s first post I have News about the site and News from Cameroon.

Phasm in Green Mavern

With regard to phasm we applied several weeks ago for inclusion in the web directory. A Human complied search engine GreenMaven has been operating since 2006 and claims to be the world’s largest Green Search Engine. How it helps us we don’t know yet but we don’t currently see it doing any harm and have added links to the GreenMavern web pages in the top and footer widget bars. We will hopefully add more links to other organisations as when any reply to our emails!

News from Cameroon

Earlier this Month Edwin sent me the first of his reports from Cameroon, advising that:

The rains have come earlier than expected. This is usually a bad sign and signifies an inevitable short period of drought between early April and May. This is not good for it happens at the time of flowering for all biennials. Often crops like beans are seriously affected and more than half of the flowers are shed off. This alone does a great deal of damage since this particular food crop is of great economic importance that farmers cannot do without. Unlike all other food crops, its yield per unit area is the lowest but the value overrides that of all other food crops.

Poor access to water leading to drought stress has always been a problem with Legumes (Beans) which respond, as Edwin notes by dropping their flowers. Where it isn’t possible to irrigate steps to mulch the surface and reduce water loses from evaporation can help, as can the development of soil water conservation programs by increasing the organic matter content. In time we hope to look at and help Edwin to develop strategies to do just this but until such time as we find sponsorship we are left with only being able to report on issues that could be tackled and steps taken to reduce the problem. Edwin goes on to note that:

The growth of all the essential crops is adversely affected with early rains encouraging excessive aerial growth at the expense of root development. If this is followed by early drought then the growth and yield of these essential crops is adversely affected. In particular Irish potatoes, a crop of significant economic importance to the rural farmers suffers resulting in smaller tuber production. Other root crops like cocoa-yams, sweet potatoes, cassava etc suffer the same effect.

Since we cannot control the weather the solution here is to develop water conservation strategies. However as with everything we need some funding in order to make this a reality.

Well its a short sweet and simple report for our first true entry in La Blog Global. We hope though it isn’t our last and that it will as we hope develop into an interesting global news feature written and compiled by the very people it is about.

News from phasm

Well just to keep things rolling and googles web crawlers happy I thought I put up a quick post on the developments here and at Conceptual reflections my blog site.

News from Phasm

Starting at Home I want to introduce Edwin who as the president of IRCCA Cameroon is to be our first contributor to La Blog Global!

Welcome Aboard Edwin! For all of us this is going to be a new and interesting experiment which whilst not long out of the imbition process (when a seed takes on board water prior to germination), is definitely on it’s way to putting out the cotyledons.

So its all now down to getting that tap root anchored and encouraging some water and nutrients to flow to the emerging adventitious roots; and that is where Conceptual Reflections will hopefully come in.

Conceptual Reflections

Conceptual Reflections is the name of my blog on The blog is an experiment in telling a story, airing opinion and sharing green knowledge. I originally housed it here but it conflicted and threatened to undermine phasm, which I try to keep A-political and secular; both of which I am not!

The blog is similarly aimed at London and it is from the City I hope to get a following, although I don’t mind where you live! If you can make use of Conceptual Reflections then please do!

If successful I hope to use that following to sponsor phasm and phasm’s projects, at the very least to drive some traffic here. Although without too much help phasm is slowly driving a trickle of traffic with 5 to 10 hits a day. That’s something we need to work on and hopefully drive up and over 50 in  the next three months. Ideally 100 a day would be good and that will be our target.

For Conceptual Reflections my current traffic is 20-30 visitors a day. I’m hoping to reach 50 by the end of next week and a hundred the following week. I have an extremely ambitious target of 100,000 visitors in 3 months and in truth may be lucky to hit 10,000 over that period. But as I once said and was posted here:

Those who aim for the Stars sometimes hit the Moon,
No mean feat in itself, but still well short of the target.


thanks for reading and visiting my site.

I hope it proves useful to you and that you will , Bookmark (Ctrl+D), RSS feed or subscribe to the site and La Blog Global.

If you would like to contribute, have a project or want to become more involved please do contact me.

I’ll post again towards the end of the month and hopefully during March we can begin to post regular contributions from Edwin.




Greenman-23 (malcolm)

Is there a Dr in the house

This will be the place for our projects to post questions and requests for solutions from experts. As Village news is to Gossip, and Information Exchange to success, so we hope Knowledge resource will be to problem solving.  So the Dr’s we are after are not medical ones but botanists, entomologist, mycologists, etc…

In the first instance though we recommend looking for answers in both the information exchange and knowledge resource categories. If you can’t find a solution or only a partial solution post a comment on the nearest answer you can find or post it here and we will see if there’s an expert in the house!

Hopefully we will have a nice beetle problem to share here soon!