Matt\’s Cuppa

My take on tea, technology, and our environment

More Than Satellites in Jeopardy

Posted by telecommatt on May 21, 2007

U.S. environment satellites in jeopardy: scientists – Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Environmental satellites that monitor global warming are in jeopardy because of cost cuts, as military and human spaceflight programs get larger shares of the U.S. budget, a science policy expert said on Wednesday.

This isn’t really “new” news. It’s dated from earlier this month. It’s taken me forever to post this article, because every time I sit down to write, I get  frustrated. The more I reread this article, the more it seems that a major issue is at stake.

“In the overall budget, Congress and the president have so
far reduced domestic spending as the primary way of reducing
the deficit,” Koizumi said by telephone. “And clearly they have
not reduced military spending. In fact it keeps growing,
primarily because the cost of our war keeps increasing …”

Let’s keep cutting money out of these programs that are below the public radar so we can say we reduced the deficit and then look better in the opinion polls. I get irritated that our politics is so focused on short term goals. What about long term investment? Guess what? In order to protect our environment, we’re going to have to spend money! That means taking on some risk. We don’t know if the policies and programs we put in place now will help us regain some control over the human impact on our planet. But we’ve got to allocate money to find out.

I keep thinking back on President Bush’s State of the Union Address.

Tonight I’m proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that
America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered
automobiles.

An investment in hydrogen-fueled vehicles sounds great. It’s easy to sell because people like new, shiny gadgets. But it’s a bit like sowing a shiny new button on an old coat. I’m not saying that new satellites is a better option. I’m saying that we need to be able to see the impact that we are creating. We need to be able to monitor our impact on the environment from as many positions as possible. You get what you pay for. Use outdated, sub par equipment, and you’ll get outdated, sub par results.

To understand where I’m coming from. you’ll have remember that I’m an admitted geek. I’m an information geek. So, let’s put the power of information in perspective. Google keeps the information from every user interaction it generates. Every web search creates data that it stores. It’s been doing this for a long time now. Back when Google first started, it didn’t have a lot of information. It was a (relatively) simple search engine. You fed it a search term, for example, the word “geek.” It gave you some websites about geeks. In the meantime, it went out and crawled over the web looking for websites, so it knew what to give you when you the next time you asked for websites about geeks.

Now let’s fast forward to today. Google has become Google.

It’s spent research money on the best ways to gather information. It uses all the information it’s gathered, not just to tell you websites about geeks, but to tailor it’s actions to suit your unique interests and needs based on what it knows about you. Try doing a search for the word “geeks” now. You get a comprehensive page listing websites, businesses, advertisers that want to be known to geeks. You get pictures, maps, news, and videos all related to geeks. You can even see how long the search took, how many results were found, and you can view your own search history in case there might be something related to a search for “geeks.”

This is the true power of relational information. The more we have, the better we can predict the specific needs of our future world. Can you imagine if we could “google” climate change like this? Can you imagine being that much closer to seeing how every action we take effects the world around us and understand how to stop the effects of actions we have already taken? And that power, that possibility is being taken away from us, so it looks like we did a bit to balance the budget?? Are we really that short sighted?

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