Public Lab Research note

Recap of Greenpeace's Data Activist Co-op 2021

by laurel_mire , fongvania , julia_e_masters | September 28, 2021 20:03 28 Sep 20:03 | #27807 | #27807

This three day virtual collaboration brought together social & environmental justice organizations, data & GIS professionals, activists, community leaders, scientists. and climate leaders. Greenpeace’s framework of open data is rooted in similar values as Public Lab’s, specifically, that in using data for activism, we must work to reduce harm caused by biased data collection and fight to change the imbalance of information power and availability.

The ultimate goal of this workshop was to:

  • Increase data literacy skills
  • Help establish a stronger link between data and progressive activism
  • Facilitate conversations about responsible and equitable use of data in the progressive and not-for-profit space

For full recordings of each session, click here. Below, you can find recaps of specific sessions our Public Lab Fellows attended.

Selected Session Recaps

The Climate Cabinet Score: National Accountability for State Legislators

The Climate Cabinet Action Fund developed a Climate Cabinet Score based on legislators’ voting history on climate and environmental bills. The scoring and ranking system helps identify critical elections and spotlights candidates with the best track records on climate, and this research has confirmed the partisan nature of climate voting and a disconnect between representatives and their constituents. Check out this article for more findings, access to the full dataset, and a description of the methodology.

Birds of a Feather Round Table Open Discussion: Data Ethics

Guided discussion hosted by Greenpeace staff on the responsibility of organizations to ethically use and retain contact information, the impact of big tech on political discourse and behavior, and data privacy regulations. Key themes included the importance of informed consent, the “right to be forgotten,” and tech-mediated echo chambers.

Storytelling with Web Maps

Hands-on workshop led by Marena Brinkhurst demonstrating how to create and publish storytelling maps with Mapbox, an online software for customizing maps. The result is similar to ArcGIS StoryMaps, except with more scripting in the back-end, which allows for more customization but also requires comfort with modifying Javascript and HTML code. This workshop guide provides examples of environmental maps and a step-by-step tutorial to making your very first Mapbox storytelling map! Additional resources, examples, and demonstration code.

How Data Storytellers Can Deploy Quantitative Metaphors to Make Abstract Problems More Tangible

Presentation and discussion entitled “Stories Without Villains: Quantitative Metaphor in Data Storytelling” led by Clayton Aldern, a data strategist and head of data journalism at Grist, a nonprofit environmental magazine focusing on climate, environmental justice, and climate change solutions. Aldern and participants discussed the use of visual metaphor and comparison to bridge the communication gap between climate science and usual methods of narrative and rhetorical writing. In short, usual methods of storytelling are ill-equipped to help readers wrap their minds around climate change, and this shortcoming stunts our ability to respond to the climate crisis. The aim of using tools like quantitative metaphor is to effectively communicate climate change in a way that will spark an emotional reaction and relate to the human experience. As an example of using quantitative metaphor for climate change storytelling, Aldern contrasted this New York Times article and this Grist article.

GIS Analysis of Sea Level Rise in East Asia

GIS specialist Jiao Wang presented the outputs of a recent Greenpeace East Asia project seeking to visualize future sea level rise impacts in countries across the region. Using ArcGIS software, sea level rise data from Climate Central (now available from Greenpeace’s Global Mapping Hub), and population data from Columbia University, Wang and her colleagues calculated how many people and how much land area would be inundated from future sea level rise projections. The team then produced interactive maps, videos, and infographics showing inundation of countries across East Asia, illustrating well-known buildings, parks, city attractions, and streets swallowed up by sea level rise. Check out some of the videos here: South Korea, Taiwan, & Japan.

Community Challenge 1: Connecting a Live Spreadsheet to a Web Map

Marena Brinkhurst from Mapbox gave a great technical tutorial of Sheet Mapper, a free data visualization tool that takes data points in an active spreadsheet and produces a live-updating web map of geospatial data. Check out the full tutorial here and a Public Lab post giving step by step instructions here. The session and tutorial produced the Co-op’s Community Challenge, an Activist ATLAS to connect people and projects from across the world. Feel free to add your name, location, expertise, and what you're interested in learning to this "geospatial rolodex" linked as “Activist Atlas Backend Sheet” in the full tutorial linked above!

The Importance of Mapping When It Comes to Protecting Communities From the Impacts of Oil and Gas Development

The mapping team from FracTracker Alliance touched on each theme of the Co-op: data ethics, data for environmental justice & policy change, and data visualization tools. FracTracker uses mapping and data visualization tools like aerial imagery (with the help of LightHawk), georeferencing, drone footage, and GIS to confront the impacts and injustices of the fossil fuel industry and develop data and maps to fuel community-led campaigns. Check out the session to hear more about how the nonprofit uses data visualization techniques to go head to head with the oil and gas industry as well as a discussion on dealing with data manipulation, inaccuracies, and omissions from the oil & gas industry.

Impactful Data Visualization at Any Scale

Speakers from data visualization firm Periscopic shared how to craft impactful data visualization outputs by focusing on honesty, transparency, and accessibility. The speakers advise to begin by asking questions: who is the intended audience, why does this audience need this info, what form of visualization is best, and how will the audience engage with it? The session concluded with a great discussion of dealing with data bias and barriers in disseminating your data visualization products.

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Don’t try to do and show everything

    • Narrow your scope
    • Outline your project goals and metrics of success
    • Select data that will best support those goals and metrics
  • Data visualization is not just sharing graphs, it is communicating ideas

  • Data becomes truly impactful when it conveys knowledge and wisdom rather than just numbers at the audience

  • Decide on your framing:

    • Is it purely scientific? Is your goal just to explore the data present
    • Is it journalistic? Are you trying to make your data more accessible to a novice audience
    • Is it artistic? Are you looking to elicit an emotive response or challenge traditions
  • Maintain data transparency!

  • Follow this decision logic:

    • Start with your data---what can you do?
    • Look at the requirements of your particular situation/project---what should you do?
    • Decide what to communicate---what will you do?


@laurel_mire has marked @julia_e_masters as a co-author.

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@laurel_mire has marked @fongvania as a co-author.

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