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'Charcoal Australia': This viral image isn't the full story
Viral 'photo' is composite image, but other map shows true and growing size of devastation
- A viral photo shows Australia smoldering like a piece of charcoal about to ignite.
- The composite image shows all fires over an entire month, which is not the same as all fires raging at the same time.
- That's not to say the devastation isn't real, and growing–as proven by another map.
Bushfires from space
Police and firefighters near the scene of a bushfire in Yanderra, New South Wales, in late December 2019.
Image: Helitak430, CC BY-SA 4.0
How bad are the fires in Australia? They're huge, deadly and apocalyptic. But not quite this bad. This three-dimensional visualization of the bushfires Down Under is going viral, in part because it was 'miscaptioned' – to the horror of its creator, Anthony Hearsey.
The image purports to be a view on the country's bushfires from space. It shows Australia lit up all over, like a smoldering piece of charcoal about to ignite entirely. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. And nothing illustrates more eloquently the devastating emergency of Australia's bushfires than this horrific map.
3D composite image of bushfires in Australia from 5 December 2019 to 5 January 2020.
However, this is not "a photo of Australian fires taken from the Space Station', as some would have it. The truth is a bit more nuanced.
Yes, Mr Hearsey—a photography and post-production specialist—based his map of Australia on actual images from NASA satellites. But it's not a single image of fires raging at the same time; rather, it's a composite image, of all fires that have raged between 5 December 2019 and 5 January 2020. "This is NOT A PHOTO," Mr Hearsey says. "Think of it as a prettier-looking graph."
As a 'collection' of all the fires that raged within the limited time frame of a single month, the image remains a shocking enough indicator of the fiery emergency that Australia is facing at the moment. All the areas lit up have been affected by bushfires over the past month—but they are not all still burning.
Fact-checking website Snopes.com referenced the image under the heading fauxtography, providing the context that is lacking in the many other places that the picture is showing up: "Composite images created from multiple data inputs are often mistaken for literal photographs."
The size of Denmark
3 January: if the bushfires had centered on London and burned in a neat square, they would have engulfed Cambridge, Oxford and Southampton.
Image: The Guardian
Here are two other maps that help put the Australian bushfires in a proper context. They both show the combined area burned by bushfires in the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia. Both are centered on London.
The first one dates from 3 January, at which time the affected area comprised 4.3 million hectares. That's 43,000 km2 (16,600 sq. mi.), which corresponds to a square that includes Oxford, Cambridge and Southampton and extends to the coast of Kent. For the less London-centric, that's an area about the size of Denmark, or slightly larger than Maryland.
8.4 million hectares
6 January: The square has doubled in size, now also covering the north of France.
Image: The Guardian
The second one dates from 6 January, when the burned lands totaled 8.4 million hectares. That corresponds to 84,000 km2 (32,400 sq. mi.). In just a few days, the area devastated by fire has virtually doubled. The square has grown significantly, now encompassing England up to the Wash and well into the Midlands and covering a much larger part of the English Channel, up to and including a strip of northern France. That corresponds to about the size of Austria, or South Carolina.
The size of the affected area is monitored by this map at The Guardian. Sadly, there seems little doubt that the square will continue to grow, covering an ever greater area of the UK and France. The map is interactive: It allows you to zoom out and recenter the square over any part of the world you may be more familiar with, to—literally—bring home the size of Australia's trial by fire.
To donate much-needed funds to help fight the fires and support its victims, visit this list of places to donate, compiled by The New York Times.
Strange Maps #1005
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
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Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.