Civicist: New Spill Tracker Enlists Crowd to Help Monitor Pollution After Hurricanes

After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, a nonprofit organization that uses satellite imagery to monitor the environment launched a tool for citizens to report pollution caused by flooding. Built on the crowdmapping platform Ushahidi, the Harvey Spill Tracker maps reports of oil, chemical, or hazardous waste spills and other incidents based on satellite images, eyewitness accounts, and National Response Center alerts. Later today the organization will release an updated version that expands the region covered to parts of the country impacted by Hurricane Irma. Read more…

Civicist: How the Crowd Could Help Keep Zinke Accountable

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says he wants to be neighborly.

In late April, President Trump ordered the Department of the Interior to review the National Monuments created or enlarged by the Antiquities Act—27 National Monuments in all—with an eye to shrinking or even eliminating some of them. Shortly after, the Department announced that they would give Americans the opportunity to voice their opinion during a public comment period. In the press release Secretary Zinke said he wanted to be a “good neighbor” by “listening to the American people who we represent.”

More than 1.4 million comments poured in between May 11 and July 10, and now that the comment period is over, The Wilderness Society wants to ensure that Secretary Zinke follows through on his promise. The organization has asked their supporters to participate in a crowdsourced audit of the comments to see where Americans’ sentiments lie. The audit will also use machine learning to assess the remainder of the 1.4 million comments that volunteers can’t get to themselves. Read more…