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Announcing my latest project, World Change Tracker

  • Web
  • Environment

A statistic I often hear quoted, especially in environmental pieces, is that the world's population has doubled since 1970. Another, is that the global average temperature has risen more than 1.5℃ above pre-industrial times. These, and other statistics like them, are shocking in their own right, but always lacked a certain sense of relatability. I was born in the early 1990s and thus don't have any first hand experience of their starting points. On hearing anything like the above, I always wondered how it might have changed in my own lifetime; and how that might relate to my own observations.

A few months ago, after returning from a long walk in the country (generally when my brain does its best thinking), I finally decided that it was time to stop wondering and to start knowing. It also occurred to me that others might also like to know the how the world has changed since they were born.

Since then, I've been working on and off on a website to collate various sources of data and show how they have changed in a simple manner. There's still much more I would like to add - additional metrics, some infographics, general tidying etc - but I feel it's now at a point where it might actually be of interest to other people. Here it is then,

The premise of the site is simple, you enter the year you were born, and it shows you how several different metrics have changed since then; things like the global population, levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the WWF's Living Planet Index. There's also a page that explains what the sources for the data are, and plots each metric's change over time in a nice chart.

As I say, this is still very much a work in progress, but I hope you find it interesting. Any and all feedback is welcomed. I'm a programmer, not a statistician, so additional eyes on the data are always useful.

From a technical perspective, the site itself is built by the static site generator Zola, there's a simple CLI program written in Rust to take each data source as a csv file and combine them into a page for each year, and routing the query strings from the form on the homepage to actual pages is done by Netlify. To be as low-impact as possible, it's all simple pre-compiled HTML pages, with no server side scripting (apart from the query string re-direct). I intend to upload the source code to Github soon, but first need to remove the actual data sources, in case of any restrictions on redistribution.

Sometime soon I'd like to write a brief piece covering how I made a couple of areas of the site, including using CSS grid to convert HTML tables into bar charts, but that will probably come after I've expanded the site a little bit more.