Using Jupyter Notebooks to Empower the Public with Environmental Data

Sat September 05, 04:35 PM–05:00 PM • Back to program
Start time 16:35
End time 17:00
Countdown link Open timer

The talk mentions the COVID-19 Pandemic, environmental harms, and natural disasters.

Our organization, Environmental Data & Governance Initiative, created a series of Jupyter Notebooks that allow for customizable reports on emissions, inspections, compliance, and enforcement data stored in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) database. ECHO includes compliance data on air, water, and hazardous waste laws for all facilities. Data should serve communities and not just corporate polluters. Communities should be able to have more resources for collecting and analysing environmental data while retaining the power to decide what they can do with their data. We wrote code using GeoPandas, NumPy, MatPlotLib, and Seaborn libraries to generate reports based on the data. Users simply run the notebook to generate a report for their area of interest. We have Notebooks set up to generate several different types of reports: analyzing inspections, violations, enforcement actions, and greenhouse gas emissions by zip-code, congressional district, or watershed; or investigating a company, location, or facility of concern across regulatory statutes. The data visualizations also explore environmental racism -- the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color. By making environmental compliance data more accessible and pliable through our Jupyter Notebooks, and supplementing the numbers with storytelling, data visualization, and socio-political contextualization, we highlight the chronic issue of industrial violations, the state enforcement activities in areas of interest to our partners, unaddressed inadequacies of legal emissions standards in protecting public health, and levers of political action and collaboration available to address these issues. The goal of this project is to use the power of Jupyter Notebooks to visualize publicly available data in a way that encourages folks to hold the government and industries accountable.

Attendees will learn how to use Jupyter Notebooks and other Python tools to engage the public to create meaningful outcomes and positive social change. The Notebooks we’ve created serve to empower interested members of the public in participatory learning about industry-related pollution that is meaningful to them and their networks, as well as creating strategic, compelling, and informative reports of environmental injustices to inform community action. Our goal is to create a future in which justice and equity are at the center of environmental, climate, and data governance. No environmental justice knowledge required to attend.

Authors: Maalvika Bhat, Kelsey Breseman, Steve Hansen, Gil Jang, Eric Nost, Chris Sellers, Paul St. Denis, Lourdes Vera, Sara Wylie, and EDGI

Maalvika Bhat she/her

Maalvika is a junior at Olin College, engineer, designer, published writer, and researcher currently working in the SF Bay Area. Through her work, she has grown increasingly enthusiastic about creative problem-solving, using data as a storytelling tool, data justice and governance, and socially-aware algorithm design. She hopes to continue understanding technology through an anthropological lens, creating ethical, sustainable solutions, and using her skill set to do social good.