Archive for the ‘Environmental Safety’ Category

Python, R, Qt, peewee, bokeh, pandas, SQLite plus couple of sleepless nights and here you are a cute app for the environmental monitoring needs )))

Main window of the application
Advertisements

I enrolled a MOOC titled “Disasters and Ecosystems: Resilience in a Changing Climate” which is organised by the UNEP (and other organisations… which names I’m going to learn by heart cause they have like 2 minutes of credits after each lecture O_o ). Not that I know nothing about disasters, risks or climate change (I’m a geographer and ecologist after all), but I was curious about the product that was made by organisation of this class.

The third video (and first video that is not an introduction) they teach us about the disasters; differences between hazard and disaster; and risks. Well… the thing they told, the graphs they showed – that what inspired the title of this post.

Terminology

Here see some definitions they use.

Disaster. When they say “disaster” they mean “natural disaster” that was enhanced by human [mismanagement].

Risk – a potential losses due to disasters.

Hazard – A dangerous phenomenon, substance, human activity or condition that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, loss of livelihoods and services, social and economic disruption, or environmental damage.

Exposure – People, property, systems, or other elements present in hazard zones that are thereby subject to potential losses.

Vulnerability – the characteristics and circumstances of a community, system or asset that make it susceptible to the damaging effects of a hazard

Fails

The risk

They presented a “great” formula for (a disaster) risk evaluation that they use in the UN:
Risk = Hazard * Exposure * Vulnerability
where: Exposure = People * ExposureTime
Vulnarability – succeptability to hazard.
Well these characteristics do correspond to the risk, but the formula is stupid! I already wrote about that: Risk = Probability * Damage. And this formula actually corresponds to the definition they give (see Terminology section). We can’t get a monetary outcome from their formula. We can’t get numeric numeric output out of that formula at all: can you multiply flood by people? Can you???!!!

A Disaster with Disasters

The fail with the risk evaluation is a common mistake, but the fail with disaster – that is what really cool!
Take a look at this plot (which is from reading materials from the course):

What can you conclude from this plot? That the world is doing to hell and we all will fall to disaster? Let’s look closer. The exposure is growing faster for poorer countries (and it is the only conclusion they make in lecture)… but the total number of people exposed (and for each type of countries) seems to be the almost unchanged! Interesting… This means (see the definition for the exposure) that there are just a 150% increase of property value in the dangerous area of the poorer countries (and 25% for the richest) on a span of 30 years. Does this graph shows us only the economic grows? I think it does… (reminds me of my previous post).
Now to the most delicious part. Take a look at this two graphs from the lecture readings:
Deaths dynamics

 

Damage dynamics
This is interesting. Despite the population growth and all that questionable “climate change” staff people die less (in total numbers), see fig. 1, but the damage increases, see fig. 2. Did they take inflation into account for the damage graph? Do not know… I think they didn’t, otherwise they would use “discounted damage” term instead of just “damage” and would indicate the base year. So the second graph seems to demonstrate inflation and may be the economic grows.
Clearly disasters are not that disastrous. Despite the new on the TV on the subject the nature’s wrath even enhanced by human is less and less dangerous for human lives. The pockets are to suffer: the storm in port wrecking the humble fisherman’s boat or a trawler – that’s the difference.

Conclusion

From these graphs I can conclude one thing – it is safer to live now than in the past, a disaster should not be feared as a deadly havoc. To my mind the disaster nowadays is entirely economic issue. See, if we loose less people and (maybe) more money – we should just develop more advanced insurance techniques to cover economic damage and relax. The disasters should just be studied as phenomena to develop cheap early warning systems, let the property be destroyed (just cover the losses with insurance) and additional employment to be created (rebuilding).
This is my conclusion form the graphs I showed here: the disaster is an ancient myth! Just buy insurance! LOL
“Wow!” – I said to myself after reading R Helps With Employee Churn post – “I can create interactive plots in R?!!! I have to try it out!”

 

I quickly came up with an idea of creating interactive plot for my simple model for assessment of the profitable ratio between the volume waste that could be illegally disposed and costs of illegal disposal [Ryabov Y. (2013) Rationale of mechanisms for the land protection from illegal dumping (an example from the St.-Petersburg and Leningrad region). Regional Researches. №1 (39), p. 49-56]. The conditions for profitable illegal dumping can be describes as follows:

 

Here: k – the probability of being fined for illegal disposal of waste;

P – maximum fine for illegal disposal of waste (illegal dumping);

V – volume of waste to be [illegally] disposed by the waste owner;

E – costs of illegal disposal of waste per unit;

T – official tax for waste disposal per unit.The conditions for the profitable landfilling can be described as follows:

Here: V1 – total volume of waste that is supposed to be disposed at illegal landfill;

Tc – tax for disposal of waste at illegal landfill per unit;

P1 – maximum fine for illegal landfilling;

E1 – expenditures of the illegal landfill owner for disposal of waste per unit.

Lets plot the graphs (with some random numbers (except for fines) for a nice looking representation) to have a clue how it looks like.

 

Note that there is a footnote (this post provides nice examples on how to do it) with the values used for plotting – it is important to have to have this kind of indication if we want to create a series of plots.

Now I will show you the result and then will provide the code and some tips.

Playing with the plot

Tips and Tricks

Before I will show you code I want to share my hardly earned knowledge about nuances of the manipulate library. There are several ways to get static plot like that using ggplot, but some of them will fail to be interactive with manipulate.

  1. All the data for the plot must be stored in one dataframe.
  2. All data for plots must be derived from the dataframe (avoid passing single variables to ggplot).
  3. Do not use geom_hline() for the horizontal line – generate values for this line and store them inside dataframe and draw as a regular graph.
  4. To create a footnote (to know exactly which parameters were used for the current graph) use arrangeGrob() function from the gridExtra library.
  5. Always use $ inside aes() settings to address columns of your dataframe if you want plots to be interactive

The Code

<pre class="brush: r; title: ; notranslate" title="">library(ggplot2)
library(grid)
library(gridExtra)
library(manipulate)
library(scales)
library(reshape2)

## Ta --- official tax for waste utilisation per tonne or cubic metre.
## k --- probability of getting fined for illegal dumping the waste owner (0

(more…)

Today I received a copy of proceedings of the conference I participated in. A peculiar moment is that my article about using Random Forest algorithm for the illegal dumping sites forecast is the very first article of my section (as well as of the whole book) and it was placed regardless of the alphabetical order of the family names of the authors (this order is correct for all other authors in all sections).

My presentation and speech were remarkable indeed – the director of my scientific-research centre later called it “the speech of guru” (actually, not a “guru”, there is just no suitable equivalent in English for the word used). Also the extended version of this article for one of the journals of the Russian Academy of Sciences received an extremely positive feedback from the reviewers. So I suppose the position of my article is truly some kind of respect for the research and presentation and not a random editorial mistake.

Now I should overcome procrastination and make a post (or most likely two) about this research of mine.

 

There was a press conference on Tuesday the 19-th about illegal dumping in Leningrad region (Russia). I was asked to be the main speaker there and to present to the press my recent study on illegal dumping prevention. I’ve already had two presentations on this subject recently at the international scientific conference in St. Petersburg State University and at the round tablefor the discussion of the upcoming “Let’s do it. Russia” clean up event.Some video from the press conference:

The main conclusion that I made by investigating possible impacts on illegal dumping prevention (such as penalty increase, chance of being caught increase and waste disposal fare decrease) is that decrease of the waste disposal fare for population is the most efficient way. And I managed to find two other publications that came to the exact conclusion (for example, there is an evidence that 1% waste fare increase leads to 3% increase of illegal dumping cases).

By the way I was able to assess probability of being caught for illegal dumping in Russia. It is about 10-5 (you can die while playing soccer with such probability).

The only way to reduce waste fares is to use waste as a resource. That means that the only way to prevent illegal dumping is to create waste management system that would be able to complete the zero waste goal.

And here is an abstract from my article:

Mechanisms of the land protection were discussed in this article. An algorithm of decision making whether to dump illegally or not was explained. Formulas for determination of profitable ration of expenditures per unit and amount of illegally dumping waste are substantiated. Effect from different types of impacts that can be used for land protection from illegal dumping were discussed (such as fares change, penalties change, penalty application probability change). Decreasing of waste disposal fares was acknowledged as the most effective way for illegal dumping prevention, but it is possible only if «zero waste» concept is implemented.

Nowadays  more and more people cares about environmental-friendly goods. Ecolabeling is often used to distinguish such goods from regular goods.

But there are several issues:

  • there are a lot of ecolabels, provided by different organisations with different standards so quality of the given ecolabel usually is uncertain;
  • ecolabels are difficult to recognize: if you unaware about given ecolabel and know nothing about authority, that gave it – you are likely to miss the point that this is ecolabel, or even you can be tricked by companies with some green-coloured sign with a word “eco”, this leads us to the following point –
  • often they can’t be trusted – companies like to place their own labels that states that product is friendly to environment to attract customers, but these labels are just a trick and has nothing to do with reality.

So I would like to propose another approach. Do you remember BP re-branding after  Deepwater Horizon explosion and infamous oil spill? I hope you do. What if we will oblige companies to put negative labels on the products which production causes significant threat to environment?! – A universal “eco-Black-Spot” for environment abusers!

Pros:

  • we won’t need external sertification organisation to confirm that this company deserves an eco-Black-Spot – an environmental agencies already have the necessary information;
  • nobody will forge eco-Black-Spot for their goods;
  • forged (self-made) “ecolabels” will instantly fail being alongside with the eco-Black-Spot.
  • companies will try to wipe out an eco-Black-Spot from their products by actual contribution for preservation of the environment.

Cons:

  • m-m-m… I don’t see any. Do you?

And what about design of the eco-Black-Spot? I believe it will be convenient to use something like this:

or this:

 

 

There was a scientific seminar dedicated to environmental risks assessment in the scientific-research centre where I work. A speaker was awfully ignorant in subject unfortunately. As a person who is experienced in environmental risk assessment (see my posts about risks and a particular methodology) I was afraid that I will be the one to ask the speaker (quite an old man) some inconvenient question about formulas he used, but luckily he was ashamed by someone else.

During the discussion the question of monetary aspect of the risk and damage to environment was raised: whether it is possible to use money as the measure of risks that only applicable to environment itself. In other words: is it rational to use money when assessing possible damage to solely ecosystem (there are no money in ecosystem by itself), and how to perform such assessment?

What do YOU think? I wasn’t able to find an appropriate answer at that moment, but now I believe I have a point. My answer is YES, we can use money to assess risks and damage dealt to ecosystem only.

Firstly the assessment is made by humans and for humans. And humans understand monetised value more easily. The approach that I want to propose is about assessment of money that have to be spent to recover ecosystem to exact the same state it was prior to caused or possible damage. Just imagine how much money one have to spent for recreating and reintroduction of just one extinguished species (a tasmanian wolf for example). Here you are a monetised damage to environment.

Another approach I have in mind is about evaluation of risks via relative live value of species (which can be easily monetised too). Lets use this formula for evaluation of life of individual of a given species: V=(1/N)*P, where V – relative value, N – population of the given species (or given areal of species), P – total population of the human beings. We will have a relative value as 1 for humans and 1*(P/N) for a given species. For example for a tiger we will have its relative individual value about 1 076 900! Literally, if we have a choice whether to save 1 million people or a single tiger, the tiger must be saved – not a million of people!!!

And we can monetise this value by multiplication on the average value of the single human life (you can play a bit with numbers given here).

So the damage to ecosystem may be assessed via loss of number of individuals of species that live in a given ecosystem and we are able to easily evaluate a relative value of the individuals of the each species, and it can be easyly monetised.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that map! The true situation with waste management uncovered at the official geoportal of Voronezhskaya region.

The geoportal itself is quite good especially for Russia and thare are a lot of information. It is even possible to download some of the data and almost all metadata. And because of their kindness we can see the ugly face of true Russian environmental ignorance and corruption:

Dumps in Voronezhskaya region: Red circles – illegal dumps; Green circles – officially allowed, unlicensed dumps; Squares with circles inside – landfills

First of all – you may see how many red circles out there. These are my “favourite” illegal dumps… terrible indeed.

But look at all these green circles and don’t let them trick you: green here does not stand for “green”. These are the same as illegal dumps, but… legal! Yes, these are dumps and their owners have no license for waste treatment and will never have because the soil and ground waters are not protected there.

So we have 9 landfills there. But not all of them have licence too… And finally there are no waste treatment plant at all.

Here you are an ugly inconvenient truth about dumps in Russia. Thanks to administration for shearing with us, but too bad they paint the same shit in different colours.

It’s actually already two month old news, but my research “Developement of the Universal Methodology for Assessement of Environmental Risk Caused by Fires at Illegal Dumps” (download in RUSSIAN), that was made special for Fire Monitoring Challenge (by GIS-Lab, Microsoft, NEXTGIS, several universities and GIS/spatial data corporations), was  awarded the 2-nd pace. The prize consisted of the fancy diploma, Lenovo IdeaPad G560 (thanks to all the gods it became much less uglier when I’ve installed openSUSE at it and applied an OSM sticker 😉 ), a wireless mouse (my wife was happy to grab it) and a nice book on remote sensing for children.

Instead of abstract:

Developed methodology for assessment of the fire probability in dependence of spatial location and actual area of illegal dump. It is applicable for any part of the world. Software used: QGIS, R.

Spatial component of the probability of the fire at illegal dump in Leningrad region, Russia

I was lucky to present this research at two conferences and today I’ve received a printed “minor” publication of the article (it is beta-version of the paper available at the link above). So it is possible now to cite it as:

Yury V. Ryabov (2011) Razrabotka univercal’noy metodiki rascheta veroyatnosti vozniknovenia pozhara na nesankcionirovennoy svalke // Sbornik nauchnih trudov molodyh specialistov, prepodavateley i aspirantov po resultatam provedenia Tret’ego molodezрnogo ecologichescogo congressa “Severnaya palmira”, 21-22 noyabria 2011, Sankt-Peterburg. – SPb NICEB RAN – pp. 93-106.

To Do: develope formula for composition coefficient calculation; translation to English; major publication.

P.S. If you are interested in this research and do not speak Russian don’t hesitate to contact me and ask for general translation.

While every normal environmental scientists perform their field surveys in Summer (unless there is a need to do this in a specific time of the year) I had to do mine when the weather was not that good. In a five days my colleague and I had to collect land monitoring archives of 3 districts of Sverdlovskaya region, soil samples for analysis for heavy metals concentrations and take pictures of the disturbed lands.

(more…)