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What exactly is the Human Impacts Database?

Answer: A depressing collection of data sets that shows just how badly we've screwed up the planet.

If there’s one thing humanity loves more than conquering (and then slowly destroying) the Earth, it’s a good old data visualization. That’s why the new Human Impacts Database (HuID) is so fitting. Created by a team of researchers, the HuID consists of 300 critical data sets and counting that can be used to visualize our impact on this planet we call home.

Visitors to the HuID can select any one of these data sets from a predetermined menu of categories like water, energy and land, as well as a range of subcategories. Or, if you know more specifically what you want to look at, like ocean pH, you can simply type it into the search bar. The database then pulls up any related data sets based on your selection, and you can read through it and view a graph showing how our natural resources have changed over time.

Spend even just a few minutes exploring what the HuID has to offer and you’ll quickly notice some common themes. “It seemed to us that a couple of key narratives emerged, and in a way they linked the story,” said Rob Phillips, a physicist with Caltech and the Chan-Zuckerberg BioHub and part of the team that built the HuID. “One of them is: What do we eat? And another one is: Where do we get our water? And then the last one is about power. If you follow those three threads, it’s a huge, huge part of the story.”