We are Alice, Gerry, Angelica, Natacha, Caleb, Adrian, Rebecca and Daniela and together we are team SandX - looking for an innovative way to help the sand crisis to be known (and yes, sand is running out and we are going to help to prove it!).
Our aim is to collect data on the extraction of sand by creating an interactive map, using things like satellite images to videos, pictures and (news) stories. Join us on our journey to reach this ambitious goal through reading our continuously updated project journal here on SDGinProgress.
If you are still a bit sceptical about the whole sand as a problem thing or just curious about the topic check out this video (insert link to our platform...) OR read up on it here (insert link to UN Environment Article Anna and Rebecca wrote).
If you are a company interested in our project, please proceed reading Proposal 2 - SandX below.
Our first few project discussions thought of crowdsourcing as a cool, innovative way to get data close to the sand mining spots. We thought that involving locals and people tools could not only provide data, but also provide a humanizing glimpse into the adverse effects of sand mining.
We sought experts since our group had no experience in crowdsourcing, luckily enough a couple worked just a few floors above our space, and agreed to meet and chat with us about it.
Jose and Adhuhama, creators of crowd4ems.com and other crowdsourcing projects, gave us feedback on our ideas. They gave us a bunch of tools and spoke frankly about the practical value of crowdsourcing (the summary of which is above).
We walked away from that meeting with a lot to consider. The main ideas of which were -
The crowdsourcing approach we could adopt depends a lot on what sand extraction spots we were talking about.
Crowdsourcing is embedded in the politics of the situation at hand. Sand mining gets testy as supports the local economy, and its (lack of)governance could facilitate punishment of people who try to take pictures, whistle-blow, or take action against the operations of a particular sand mine....
However, there are organizations and civil society groups that find what sand mining does to the environment and society absolutely reprehensible; from destroying beaches and damaging local river ecosystems, to how and how it displaces people, homes and threatens people's safety. These groups, including citizen journalists and affected peoples, would want to work with us to provide pictures, videos, data, etc, and make a promising group to reach out for.
Facebook, twitter #sandmining, and other news sites (coastalcare.org, sandstories.org) can shed light on the reality of the situation and provide grassroots contacts we need to gather data on the situation.
Using AI (crowdAI) could be a useful tool to quickly and automatically analyze satellite images of hotspots to identify where hotspots are from a top-down perspective. A great case of AI sizing up landfills based on polygons drawn around the landfill sites drawn by researchers grounded this suggestion.
Satellite images will be important, and a great way to include crowdsourcing. They can help us identify hotspots and involve citizens and groups in the creation of data.
Anyways, it was a lot to bring back to the other half of the group.
While the first half was getting valuable knowledge on Crowd-sourcing, the second half of the group presented how our project was going to the class. We prepared an amazing video to present our group as "SANDX - Finding the X for Sand", a project dedicated to filling the data gap in sand extraction, how the infrastructure boom is fueling an insatiable hunger for sand, and how we need to make the impacts of said hunger visible to experts. The presentation ended with a final explanation of our project's logic, goals and methods.
(Thanks to Caleb's ingenuity, our group finally decided on a name. SandX!
The 'x' in SANDX stands for the perennial algebraic "what is x?". The variable expresses how little we all know about the sand crisis and our ultimate vision to 'solve for x' when it comes to sand crisis data.)
What we are learning is that projects go through many iterations, and with every iteration our project comes a bit more into focus. A big part of iteration is pitching. Everyday workshop day we pitch our project at least two times to our peers, supervisors and people from outside. Their valuable insight always flows back into our next project discussions.
Natascha found a local construction company willing to invite us to tour their place. This will be a perfect time to ask questions and learn more about how construction companies see sand extraction.
It will also be a good time to discuss our project with the company and see their thoughts on our project.
Our first pitch to outsiders - namely the ITU - was a success, especially with the video. This means that our project already has the potential to generate buy-in right off the bat in a pitch situation.
However, we received less feedback on our project itself.
To figure out how to best project and visualize the data we collect, we (adrian) discussed what geomapping tools best fit our needs. We also discussed with Davide F. and Charlotte, who are our supervisors and work in this field. We are having some issues, because our first choice (Google earth) is apperently not embedable in websites. The second choice is Google MyMaps, we discussed many but this seemed to be the best fit, since it's really easy to understand and handle. There is just one problem, Files can not exceed a certain size (5MB for .kml Files). We are still looking at alternatives including CesiumJS, OpenstreetMap, Mapbox, etc.
To identify hot-spots, we need to get a sense of what would make a sand mining zone a 'no-go' zone. Seeing as how tjere's no general, global or even regional consensus on which zones would be no go zones, we will review literature and cases on current no-go zones, especially of protected ecological or conservation zones, to see how these zones are classified.
However, the end-of-day discussion two weeks into our project left our group with more questions than answers... After pitching our project realization struck that there were still many big questions to answer. It also turned out showing the impact of sand extraction and its environmental (and social) impacts on maps is difficult to show as not only is data scarce but sand can also disappear for entirely different reasons such as erosion or rise in sea level.
Also: What was our project really about? Our actual stake in it?
Were we not forward thinking enough? Who are we helping? What kinds of data do we need?
Today we found answers to some of these important questions, and while we're still 'iterating' our project goals, ideas, tools and such, we're getting closer nailing down the tangible things we, as a group, need to start doing to realize our vision.
We came with a first proposal and a working title name (A Shore Thing).
We would create:
An interactive map with a wide collection of data, from satellite images to ecosystem categorizations, to understand the global and local impact of construction sand extraction.
Questions to ask:
Today, 01.11.18, after a thorough research and considering various variables such as available data, location, experts contacts, etc. we decided on two hotspots to focus our further analysis on best future practices in construction.
Our new proposal reads:
SANDX - ‘Find the X for Sand’
Highlight “no-go” zones for sand extractions by creating an interactive map with a robust data set that consists of various sources, from satellite images to videos, pictures, and (news) stories that present future impacts of sand extraction on a local and global scale. The project aims to link these extractions sites to the infrastructure projects that demands their continued operation and help key stakeholders make informed decisions about the sand crisis at hand.
We expanded our scope from Mekong Delta to include all of Vietnam.
We realize that the situation of sand mining and its impacts in Vietnam would differ vastly from Switzerland, and how no-go zones, conservation zones, etc are defined and identified.
So we opted to take a more case study approach to Vietnam. We looked for international and national frameworks that govern nogo zone selection.
Our theory of change is quite straightforward. By listing no-go zones we hope to change sand extraction companies' behaviors. Indeed we would be stressing how detrimental their practices can be on the environment by highlighting no-go zones, meaning zones that are environmentally vulnerable and that should be protected. As such, we are attempting to encourage policymakers as well as companies to move away from these sites and start implementing our best practices guideline.
Our reasoning was inspired by the following article: https://www.theoryofchange.org/what-is-theory-of-change/
As we explain in our theory of change section, we hope that by highlighting no-go zones, we encourage the private sector as well as policymakers to act accordingly and implement best practices in respect to the environment. This entails, of course, a paradigm shift. We've all heard of the transition from a linear to a circular economy. This would entail thinking differently regarding the economy and the environment where the latter actually englobes the former and we strive for a sustainable way of life.
Evidently, as we are in a SDG framework, our project applies to several of the sustainable development goals. Our objective intrinsically relates to the SDG 14 and 15 which, as a reminder, seek to preserve life on land and below water. SDG14 as a whole aims at “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development” which our project strongly advocates for as the majority of sand extraction sites take place underwater and its impacts are devastating for the surrounding ecosystem. SDG 15, which can be defined as so: “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”. The latter part of the SDG 15 is what pertains most to our project as we touch upon the preservation of land which contains sand and as a correlation the protection of biodiversity in that area.
In every project, idea, initiative, one has to set its monitoring criteria. One has to be realistic, that is why we have to set the following thresholds as a way to monitor our progress and success.
As a first step to test our project, checking for availability, quantity, and quality of data is a good way to assess if it's worth going further.
Secondly, once that has been verified, taking feedback from experts and organisations can be of great importance as they are our main target audience and can give us valuable advice.
Our overall achievement in making our platform is also a form of monitoring progress and success of our project. This indicates the feasibility of the latter as well.
Finally, even with everything in place, i.e. data and website, the message or story we try to convey can remain lost or ununderstood by our target audience which can lead to overall failure of the project.
Over the last few weeks we have been contacting and connecting experts and company in the fields of sand, cartography, academics, geography, journalism, awareness, etc. to find data and to ask them for their opinion on the project.
To achieve our project research and hard work is crucial and there are four main areas we need to become experts in: platform building, mapping, "no-go" zones, and our two hotspots Switzerland and Vietnam/Mekong Delta.
Visite de la Gravière des Délices – 15.11.2018
Alice and Natacha visited a land-extracting site based in Apples called la Gravière des Délices. We have learned a lot thanks to this experience particularly on the good and bad practices in Switzerland, including names of players we were unable to find online previously. We have made an incredible jump forward thanks to information we received. We’ve noted some information in bullet points below:
Where does the demand for sand come from?
By plotting local infrastructure demands, we can reasonably map out what the demand for sand. Sand is probably being injected here.
Just as significant is mapping the potential spots the project may source sand from.