Can Open Data Help Save the Amazon?

Geo-journalist Gustavo Faleiros digitally lays bare the myriad threats to our planet

“The bathroom’s down the hall,” Gustavo Faleiros tells me, as we speak one June afternoon in his sunny São Paulo apartment. “But there’s no running water.” Residents of his building in the middle-class neighborhood of Pompéia have agreed to alternate water supply to their apartments—one day with and one day without—in order to eke out what trickles in from the water mains each day.

The São Paulo water shortage is bringing residents of Brazil’s biggest city face to face with environmental crisis inside their own homes. But for Faleiros, it has been part of his daily life for years. He is the founder of geo-journalism initiative InfoAmazonia, which uses data gleaned from databases and satellites to create innovative, deeply contextualized maps, graphics, reports, and features concerning the Amazon, covering burning issues facing the immense region—in some cases, literally: InfoAmazonia’s map of “heat focuses” shows the forest fires currently raging over the entire continent, updated hourly.

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