We live in an age of mass information and sensory technologies. Want to know today’s air quality in Beijing? Or what bird species are in your neighborhood? There are apps for that. Despite the continuous generation of information, much of the data needed to assess and act on our most pressing environmental challenges are missing. Water quality, recycling rates, toxic chemical exposures, land degradation – these environmental issues lack consistent, global information pathways. Where data exist, they are often incomplete, erratic or untrustworthy. Even if clear of these hurdles, data may be based at a resolution or scale inapplicable to the policy question at hand. The growing ocean of information poses new problems of its own, often creating more noise than clear signals. To successfully navigate simultaneous data gaps
and deluge is a monumental challenge for decision-makers and environmental managers.
Our novel approaches include big data (e.g., satellite data) analysis as well as community or citizen-based crowdsourcing – a mix of inventive and cutting-edge methods we dub “third-wave data” that can facilitate leap-frogging primary (i.e., top-down, command and control) and secondary (i.e., market-based) policies for environmental management.