If there's one thing to give thanks for this holiday season, it's the new technologies that have sprung up, paving the way for cleaner air and a healthier tomorrow. While we use pollution control technologies and tracking systems to measure the impact of pollution on people's everyday lives, new studies have shown great progress in a pollution tracking system like none other: social media.
As representatives of the air pollution control industry, we know that tracking pollution in some of the world’s largest cities can be next to impossible. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are shedding light on social media as a new approach to the issue, presenting this innovative solution as a way to assist in mapping pollution by user feedback. But how?
Researchers tested this digitally focused initiative in China, one of the most polluted countries in the world. Mining a Twitter-like social platform ‘Sina Weibo,’ they monitored posts relative to air quality. Using both word choices and author locations to estimate the air quality of a given region, this study highlighted feedback and the perspectives from inhabitants of 108 different cities over the course of 30 days. After compiling the data, the researchers found that the levels of pollution directly correlated with tweets around bad or good air quality in those cities.
This study offers a way for those of our industry to acquire information on if and how pollution is affecting people in certain regions throughout the world. While this pollution tracking system may not be the end-all solution for our industry, it allows us to keep an open mind when it comes to new technologies and data.
Be it digital or not, feedback and perspective drive policy. Adopting these new initiatives will help us help our lawmakers form legislation to better combat, and end air pollution.