Arushi Nath.

Between October 26-30, 2020, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) hosted the Our Future, Our Voices, a virtual summit by, for, and with young people. The Summit was a platform for young people around the world to come together, share their thoughts, ideas and projects they are undertaking that are relevant to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Summit was a wonderful opportunity to hear about the aspirations of the youths, their achievements, the challenges they face and how they deal with them. These conversations matter if we have to create an inclusive world where voices of all youths matter and their opinions are respected by the global community, leaders and decision makers.

Ideas can come at any age, and no action is too small to make a difference. Actions always count better than words. What is needed is support and encouragement so that young people stay inspired, motivated and have the resources they need to keep making a difference.

Young generation of today are the ones who have to tackle climate change and adapt to the changes brought by it. If they are optimistic about their future and feel the support of their local and global community, they will inspire other kids and adults too, to join their efforts for a better tomorrow.

How is NASA Data Helping School Kids in Canada Fight Climate Change?

I was invited to speak at the Our Future, Our Voices virtual summit to share experiences and updates on my project: How is NASA Data Helping School Kids in Canada Fight Climate Change? (See online video) I was also invited to be a Panelist for the Generation Now: Young People Living Their Values to Save Our Planet session held on 27th October.

I talked about how school and local parks in the cities have an important role to play in fighting climate change. Kids spend a lot of time with their friends playing in these parks. During summer months, they provide a cool and safe place to hang out. The parks play an important role in preserving urban biodiversity such as native plants, birds, flowers.

But these parks are often overlooked when it comes to measuring their tree densities. And when we do not measure tree densities, we cannot monitor changes or compare parks with each other.

I love space. So I decided to combine my interest in space to do something about tree densities in local and school parks. I turned to satellite imagery from NASA’s LandSat 8 as well as PlanetLab’s Dove satellite to get high resolution of these parks. I then used free software tools to measure their tree densities. A lot of data was gathered. To increase the impact of this data and share it with more people, I turned to crowd mapping software. The software allowed me to map these parks and their tree densities.

Pictures of Toronto Parks from Space in Different Resolutions (NASA and PlanetLabs Satellites)

Satellite Data used for Measuring Tree Density of School and Local Parks

Kids and other users are able to check parks in their neighbourhoods and find out their tree densities. They are able to compare these tree densities to see how green is their neighbourhood.

I started this project last year in 2020. This year I recalculate the tree densities of the existing parks to measure the changes over one year. I also calculated tree densities of some new parks. I plan to bring more parks in the city under my crowdmap.

You may view the map at: https://snack.ushahidi.io/views/map

Crowdmap of Tree Density Data

If you want to participate in this project, to calculate tree densities of your neighbourhood parks, then I have created an online training module for you. You can access it at: https://github.com/Spacegirl123/How-is-NASA-Data-Helping-School-Kids-in-Canada-Fight-Climate-Change-

Generation Now: Panel Discussion

I enjoyed participating in the panel discussion and listening to the aspirations, journeys and achievements of the other panelists. It was inspiring to see that we all want to do something good for the society and the environment, we all have awesome ideas, and we all are not waiting for another tomorrow to act.

Arushi speaking at Generation Now Panel, Our Future, Our Voices Summit

The three lessons from my project I shared with others are:

  1. Ideas can come at any age
  2. Commit to the idea: make a sketch, prototype or a model
  3. Do not just tell others about your ideas but show them your model or prototype. When you show the progress so far, people come forward to support your ideas.

For example, in my project to measure tree density, I initially used NASA’s LandSat 8 satellite for my project as the data was available for free and available for several previous years. However the resolution of the data was not enough to identify individual trees in smaller school parks. I showed the progress I made so far with the Landsat Data to others. Some of them recommended me to PlanetLabs. Dr. Tanya Harrison from PlanetLabs was kind enough to listen to my ideas and then support me by providing free access to the data from PlanetLab’s Dove satellite that I used for analysis in my project.

We all learned a lot from each other. Together we are stronger, together we are optimistic, together we can work for a better tomorrow.

Download presentation slides: https://hotpoprobot.files.wordpress.com/2020/11/nath-how-nasa-data-is-helping-kids-fight-climate-change-slides.pdf

from the organisers:

The magnitude of the climate crisis can make people feel it’s hard to make a difference. Arushi Nath will share how, as a middle school student, she used satellite imagery to measure tree densities at school and neighborhood parks and employed a crowd mapping software to enable students to add their own pictures. She’ll also describe the sensor she built to record pollution data around school parks. “What matters,” she says, “is getting started and taking action. At just 11 years old, Arushi is our youngest speaker!

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