The bushfire crisis in Australia is beyond words. I've been talking to a few Australian friends and WL community members @Rob Appleby @JessieOliver etc trying to answer "what can we do as a tech community to help directly?". What is it - 500 million estimated dead? 8000 Koalas, 30% of the population known to have perished in NSW?
They too know we're looking at the reality of climate change unfolding at scale in Australia. All its wildlife, all its people, are now on the frontline now and for years to come. We still aren't even reducing emissions globally(!). What a disaster. The Amazonian fires, Californian fires, African fires - all devastating and not even close in comparison to what is going on in Oz and equally as disturbing. Watching it all unfold I keep looking for something we could do to help in the short term, as a community.
At first I was thinking early warning fire / heat / smoke sensors for remote fire detection - we have all the comms and hardware to do it, but the shear scale of it and limited resources on the ground to react seemed to suggest the impact wouldn't do much even if we started to deliver free hardware as a community. Maybe it would help in the long term post recovery next year, and the next, but then a post came up a few agos on the Sydney Herald describing the "starvation event" now facing the survivers that is just as heart wrenching.
From a technology perspective however, I think we could help. Equipment to quickly detect distressed wildlife in the aftermath / burnt land is certainly what we could help with. UAVs with thermal cameras could spot and find countless dehydrated or starving mammals for a start in the short term. I have no idea which org / people locally would be best to receive it, especially if we're looking at drone pilots, but we could explore the idea. I could probably build two thermal UAVs from spares in my room alone and I know plenty of pilots. We could even try and fund / donate to help build an equipment bank in a way we know how.
Maybe a special "unprecedented" Virtual Meetup to brainstorm a response from us a community?
Infact, we were going to do one for the rainforest Xprize that was to discuss rapid scanning / surveillance of rainforest habitat, so we're already in a similar realm.
Thanks to everyone who has signed up using the form. There are a couple of obvious workstream areas emerging - we'll organise them using the slack channel. Over the last few days we've also been liaising with teams on the ground in NSW and Victoria to make sure we're connecting in with exisiting efforts and focusing our work on prioirities they're identifying on the ground.
STEP 1: Please, continue to use the form to tell us how you want to be involved, the information is really helpful for cooridination purposes and communicating what you can help with to the teams on the ground. It also will us to direct you into the workstreams that match your interests.
FORM IS HERE:
STEP 2: Join the slack workspace here. It's super basic at the moment, but it'll get us going. It looks like the best approach is to organise into a couple of different teams, each with a lead that reports into a coordinating group.