A climate disaster in Germany, air pollution in South Asia, and deforestation in Brazil. Across the world, societies have been experiencing the impact of a global environmental crisis. Our NodeXL mapping from July 26 to August 1, which tracks the most popular data journalism stories on Twitter each week, found projects by local and international outlets looking into each of these worrying developments. In this edition, we also feature more data-driven coverage of the Tokyo Olympics by The New York Times and The Washington Post, an investigation into Bulgarian coal plants by OCCRP, and a guide to creating appealing data visualizations based on simple charts.
Fighting Fire with Fire
At first glance, it might sound counterproductive. But sometimes the best defense against large uncontrollable wildfires are small prescribed fires that build a buffer to protect communities and create better conditions for firefighters to do their work. Controlled burns are an ancient art backed by scientific data. Examining satellite imagery, The Washington Post explains the benefits of such initiatives and the obstacles to making more extensive use of them.
So excited to share a piece I've been working on with the phenomenally talented Lede Lab team at @washingtonpost. It was a privilege to be a part of this project, and I hope it helps more folks understand the benefits of fire on the landscapes of the West. https://t.co/Mb1YoNzYb2
— Amanda Monthei (@amonthei) July 29, 2021
Waiting for an Ambulance
In Russia, if a patient’s life is in danger, an ambulance must arrive in 20 minutes. But an investigation by IStories found that people in villages and smaller cities must often wait much longer for help after an urgent call. The outlet estimates that 20 million people, or every seventh inhabitant of Russia, live in places where an ambulance from the nearest medical institution will take longer than 20 minutes to reach them.
«Дооптимизировались до того, что скоро вообще болеть нельзя будет»
— Важные истории (@istories_media) July 26, 2021
Bulgarian Coal Plants
Two power stations associated with a Bulgarian energy tycoon may have under-declared carbon dioxide emissions for the past three years, according to an analysis of official data by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). By doing so, the plants may have saved at least 26.6 million euros (around $31 million USD.) Officials at both plants have denied inaccurately reporting emissions data.
NEW: Two coal power plants linked to a Bulgarian energy tycoon may have under-reported carbon dioxide emissions for years, possibly saving them more than €26.6m in payments.
— Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (@OCCRP) July 28, 2021
Germany’s Climate Crisis
With floods churning their way through western Germany and temperatures getting higher and higher, the country is witnessing first-hand evidence of a climate crisis. The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung analyzed decades of data on precipitation, heat, and soil moisture to paint a more detailed picture of climate change’s destructive impact.
Super Recherche, super erklärt: Was haben die jüngsten #Unwetter (ebenso wie Hitze und Dürre) mit dem #Klima zu tun? Eine interaktive Deutschlandreise in Daten erklärt, wie das Wetter zur #Klimakrise wird: https://t.co/EOYAnCM0lK
— Wolfgang Jaschensky (@Jaschensky) July 27, 2021
Stealing Brazil’s Rainforest
The Brazilian government is opening the Amazon rainforest to privatization and development. A project published in Bloomberg Businessweek, supported by The Pulitzer Center, reviewed thousands of public documents and conducted dozens of interviews with prosecutors, forest rangers, and members of president Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle. According to the investigation, the government’s actions could have an irreversible impact on one of the world’s greatest natural resources.
Brazil’s rainforest is being stolen and cleared at an accelerating pace. Who is behind this? The Bolsonaro government. For Bloomberg’s @BW, @Rainforest_RIN fellow @JessicaVBrice writes about the Brazilian government’s role in deforestation. https://t.co/78TRHfe6Tf
— Pulitzer Center (@pulitzercenter) July 29, 2021
In Ethiopia, a colossal hydroelectric dam still in construction is expected to soon generate power and contribute to the country’s economic development. But the ambitious project has caused a dispute over water rights, and other countries relying on the Nile have expressed worries that the dam could reduce the river’s flow. This graphics project by Reuters analyzed data from the United Nations and satellite imagery to explain how the dam could transform parts of the continent.
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 29, 2021
The majority of the world’s most polluted cities are concentrated in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. But the lack of reliable national-level data has hindered efforts to examine air pollution patterns and their public health impacts in depth. The Third Pole’s Disha Shetty interviewed experts and looked at some smaller studies and international sources to investigate the issue.
For @third_pole I explore what we know about #airpollution in the #HinduKushHimalayan region, its sources & public health impacts. I've spoken to experts across India, Pakistan & Nepal for the story. https://t.co/WzJnRf8auy
— Disha Shetty (@dishashetty20) July 28, 2021
Running Fast, Running Far
The Tokyo Olympics have produced some remarkable races, with sprinters breaking long-standing world records. Notable examples include Karsten Warholm and Sydney McLaughlin’s triumphs in men and women’s 400 meter hurdles. Runners often need to find the painful balance between speed and endurance. Still, this depends on their specific discipline. The New York Times invited three elite athletes to run on a treadmill and examined their results to find out the differences between running fast and running far.
What’s the difference between running the 100 meters, the 800 meters and running a marathon? We invited three elite runners to run on the world’s fastest treadmill to find out. https://t.co/qKCDvtPHkI pic.twitter.com/vlEMjbeAxH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 31, 2021
How Old are Olympians?
Roughly 11,700 athletes are competing in Tokyo this summer. As usual, most of them are in their 20s. But the range of events in the Olympics has always enabled competitors from many age groups to challenge for gold medals. The Washington Post takes a look at the youngest and oldest Olympians in history and examines the age limits for different events.
As you would expect, two-thirds of the roughly 11,700 Olympians competing in Tokyo are in their 20s.
But the rest of the athletes range from two preteens to four 60-somethings. https://t.co/d7vAbfCSwi
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 31, 2021
In Defense of Simple Charts
Want to tell a story using data? You don’t have to be a design expert. In a piece for Datawrapper, Lisa Charlotte Rost argues that basic visualizations such as bar and pie charts can be much more appealing and easier to understand than complex animated graphics. The bottom line? “Simple charts are not boring when they show interesting data,” Rost writes.
— Lisa Charlotte Rost (@lisacrost) July 26, 2021
Peter Georgiev is GIJN’s social media and engagement editor. Previously, he was part of NBC News’ investigative unit in New York. He also worked as a correspondent for Bulgarian National Television and his reporting has been published by the Guardian, Deutsche Welle, and other international outlets.