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Identify the Land or Sea area; Collect, Share and Analyse the Data; Repair or Adapt the Land or Sea area to the best extent possible.



This proposal aims to provide support for individuals, communities, educational and scientific organisations, commercial enterprises and governments at all levels to become involved in large or small restorative or adaptive activities, mostly operating at local levels. For these to be effective, knowledge, information, people, methods, money and resources must be accumulated and shared, so that optimal use of the land may be achieved. Documented successful projects may act as templates for future projects.

The core element of this proposal is a public domain database that is an audit of the entire land surface of the earth, divided into basic earth units (BEUs) defined by GPS co-ordinates. Its function is to aggregate and localise all available land and sea data to support large and small projects for improvement, repair or development of defined areas and any activities taking place within them. It will be made available to all persons and organisations with information to offer or an interest in participation in remedial works.  Communication in both directions will be via an App developed for the purpose. The initial version will contain only a list of BEUs and Land Usage Codes, but updates will be made available as information flows in from users. Thereafter, as public interest grows, qualitative information may be donated to databases linked to the audit one, or retained on the contributors’ servers, with appropriate links to those databases.

All of the information on the databases relating to a specific BEU or XEU will be used to define optimal or acceptable suboptimal usages for the BEU, associated XEUs or specified areas within them. Projects for optimising the function of large or small areas of land or sea may then be initiated by individuals or entities of all kinds ranging in size from modest activist groups through to national governments and international organisations. 

Category of the action

Mitigation/Adaptation, Changing public attitudes about climate change

What actions do you propose?


The intention is to provide a service whereby all data that is stored in multiple government, public and private databases under appropriate terms of access and is relevant to a nominated area of land or sea anywhere in the world can be accessed, accumulated, processed, distributed and used to reach the best possible outcome for any problem under study in that area. Originally, the focus was on optimising land usage for climate change amelioration, but it is capable of being used for a much wider array of activities related to the public good. Information may be aggregated on a one-time only basis or at regular intervals as part of an ongoing monitoring process.

At the core of this proposal is a public domain database that contains an audit of the entire surface of the earth, divided into a grid of basic earth units (BEUs), bounded by lines of latitude and longitude and identified by the GPS co-ordinates of the corners. The datum of the grid will be the intersection point of the Prime Meridian and the Equator (i.e. 0:0:0 for each of the NW, NE, SW and SE quadrants). As no BEUs will cross these lines, all positional references will be positive, but BEUs must be identified as residing in the northern or southern hemisphere and to the east or the west of the Prime Meridian. The dimensions of the BEUs are expressed in minutes of arc, with 2, 3, 6 or 12 minutes fitting within the mathematical model for identification and analysis. Adjacent BEUs may be assembled into larger areas called Extended Land Units or XEUs.

Natural physical features such as rivers, reefs or mountains and man-made ones such as property boundaries, roads and railways can be represented by single GPS points, chains of GPS points or loops (where the last GPS point in a loop is the same as the first). They will be referred to hereafter as structures.

The audit database will not contain qualitative data (e.g. soil quality), but such data in other databases will be linked to it through the unique ID of the BEU or XEU to which the data refers. In effect, the database will function as an index, used to select matching location or usage data in all contributing databases.

Design Of The Audit Database.

Looking at the grid below the equator, the latitudinal boundaries (parallel to the equator) should be a standard distance apart (3 min or 5.8 km is proposed), while the longitudinal boundaries start at 3 min. (also 5.8 km) but will, as one moves south, reach a point (at 60 degrees south) where 3 min. represents only about half of the equatorial dimension, or 2.9 km. At this point the longitudinal boundary will change to 6 min. (back to 5.8 km), with two northerly BEUs matching one southerly BEU. This manoeuvre may be repeated each time the longitudinal boundary halves in length. The fact that all corners of one northerly BEU will either have exactly the same GPS co-ordinates as the corners of adjacent BEUs or will be exactly half-way between the corners of a southerly BEU will greatly simplify the computation of which BEU will be the home of any arbitrarily selected set of GPS co-ordinates. The grid pattern above the equator will be a mirror image of the one below it.

 Adjacent BEUs can be assembled into XEUs for convenience as required, identified by the co-ordinates of the BEUs at diagonal corners of the XEU. Large structures will be defined independently of any BEU or XEU, However, where a structure extends over BEUs or XEUs, additional points will be inserted where the chain or loop enters or leaves a BEU or XEU and the area of the structure within the BEU or XEU, defined by the linked boundaries of the structure and the BEU or XEU can be treated as a smaller structure belonging to the BEU or XEU for investigatory purposes.

The choice of GPS co-ordinates was prompted by their universal nature and the ability to relate to similarly defined areas and structures through very straightforward mathematical processing. Existing projects using squ. km. (say) can be linked to the new system by creating an XEU.

The earth's surface is divided into four quadrants. For each quadrant, its origin lies at the intersection of the Equator and the Prime Meridian, which has the longitude and latitude value 0:0:0, with values increasing for any trajectory into the quadrant.

Each BEU is located inside a quadrant and is identified by the GPS co-ordinates of two diagonal corners, referred to as Anchor1 and Anchor2 respectively. Anchor1 is always the one nearest to the quadrant origin. Hence, its GPS values in latitude or longitude are always less than those of Anchor2.

The following rules apply to determine which BEU houses a nominated point, defined by its GPS values:

  1. The GPS values of anchors and nominated point must all contain the same quadrant identifiers (N or S and E or W).
  2. The degrees component of all of the GPS values (nominated point and anchors) must be the same.

  3. The latitude and longitude of Anchor1 must be equal to or less than those of the nominated point by amounts less than 3 minutes. If either difference is zero, the point resides on the corresponding boundary between the BEU and an adjacent one.

  4. The latitudinal dimension of the BEU is always the distance represented by an arc of 3 minutes. The longitudinal dimension of the BEU will be represented by an arc of 3 minutes where the latitude of Anchor1 is less than 60 degrees and by an arc of 6 minutes where the latitude of Anchor1 is 60 degrees or greater.

  5. The number of seconds in the Anchor GPS values will always be 0 and the number in the nominated point GPS values may be ignored for computational purposes.

  6. Where the latitude of Anchor1 is less than 60 degrees, the Anchor2 co-ordinates for the same nominated point will be found by adding 3 minutes to each of longitudinal and latitudinal values of Anchor1. Where the latitude of Anchor1 is 60 degrees or greater, the latitudinal value of Anchor2 will still be found by adding 3 minutes to the latitudinal value of Anchor1, but the longitudinal value will be found by adding 6 minutes.

  7. The longitudinal and latitudinal minute values of Anchor1 are obtained by rounding down the corresponding minute values of the nominated point to the nearest number which is a multiple of 3.

In mathematical terms, the formulation is:

DegA = DegN              MinA = (Int(MinN/3) x 3                       SecA = 0

where DegA, MinA and SecA are the values of the degrees, minutes and seconds in the latitude or longitude of Anchor1 and DegN, MinN and SecN are the values of the degrees, minutes and seconds in the latitude or longitude of the nominated point.

The longitudinal and latitudinal values of Anchor 2 are obtained simply by taking the corresponding values in Anchor1 and adding 3 or 6 to the number of minutes in them, in accordance with the rules set out above.

From these computations it is clear that the BEU in which any nominated point resides is defined entirely by the relationship between the nominated point and the BEU’s Anchor1. Anchor2 plays no role in the identification process. However, it is significant in (a) defining an XEU in terms of the numbers of BEUs in the N-S and E-W directions composing it and (b) determining whether a nominated point resides within a specific XEU. This is because the numbers of BEUs in the N-S and E-W directions are not necessarily the same.

XEUs are defined by Anchor1 in the BEU nearest the quadrant origin and Anchor2 in the BEU furthest away from the quadrant origin. The number of BEUs in either direction can be computed as follows:

BEU count = ((Deg2 – Deg1) x 60 + Min2 – Min1 - 3)/3, where Deg2 and Min2 refer to Anchor2 and Deg1 and Min1 refer to Anchor1.

This computation holds for XEUs located within 60 degrees of the equator. For XEUs located outside this zone, the formula for the East/West count will be:

BEU count = ((Deg2 – Deg1) x 60 + Min2 – Min1 - 6)/6

The  main reason for computing the number of BEUs in an XEU is that the latter may contain information which is either uniformly distributed across the XEU in which case the amount allocated to any BEU is decided by dividing the total value of the information by the number of BEUs. In cases where the information is not uniform, individual BEUs will be allocated the value pertaining to their location within the XEU.


This proposal aims to involve as many persons and institutions as possible in the XEUs and structures, the collection (and optionally, the donation) of relevant physical data and usages. To start it off, a committee drawn from professional IT organisations will set up a database containing the tables necessary to define BEUs (which can be populated in advance with basic information, as the spatial definitions are purely numerical), XEUs, structures and usage types (populated with a list of known usages of each type). The database will be accompanied by an App containing a function which will identify any BEU in which a specified set of GPS co-ordinates will be found. The App will also provide functions for the definition of XEUs through their anchor BEUs and for structures through the entry of sets of GPS co-ordinates in an ordered sequence. These sets will have their own independent ID and will not be associated with any particular BEU or XEU. However, where a chain or loop crosses the boundary of a BEU, the program will insert additional points at those boundaries, so that the portion of the chain or loop within the BEU can be treated as a smaller structure contained entirely within it.

Any person or organisation with an interest in optimising the quality or usage of a specific area of land or sea may, on provision of verifiable identification and a unique username, receive the App software, together with a current copy of the audit database and access to a discussion website. Details of any XEUs defined by the user, together with structures and usage codes applicable to specific BEUs and XEUs can be returned to the management committee for inclusion in the master copy of the database. User copies may be updated as convenient. Reference to this database and the website will allow ready communication between those with interests, skills, knowledge and information relating to particular land or sea areas, structures and usages.

As stated earlier, this database is in effect an index. The next phase is for the management committee to develop other databases to hold data relating to the quality and usage of the land or sea and linked to the index records through their unique IDs. This information may be donated or made accessible through links to other, private databases.

These two phases will allow for an early start to the scheme and if there is sufficient public involvement, will prompt government and other organisations responsible for collation of all worldwide data to set up the appropriate services (e.g. collection of remote structural data,  provision of storage facilities and analytical technologies). Eventually, all of the index data will be gathered into one or more international databases, which will also contain donated land data and lists of links connecting BEUs and XEUs to similar data in other databases, both public and private.

In its final form, management of the audit database, with all its donated information and links to external information, would be handed over to an organisation independent of government or commercial interests. Oversight of this organisation would be undertaken by a committee consisting of government or United Nations nominees. It would have the powers to determine the existence of data held by governments, commercial or non-profit companies and institutions. Where absolutely necessary, it could demand access to the data itself. Most entities would probably be quite prepared to hand over data which was not contentious, but would not be willing to publicise data relating to projects under public criticism or which was rated as “commercial in confidence”. However, the public good must remain a priority.


Who will take these actions?

Initially, it is hoped that this activity will be driven by public interest and the management committee will in the first instance create and promote the databases necessary to store the locational data relating to BEUs, XEUs and structures. Once information from the public is submitted, it can formalise the material data. BEUs with similar characteristics can then be identified and hopefully this will facilitate information exchanges and co-operative activity between interested parties all over the world.

The amount and variety of data may eventually reach a scale where it can be used for large projects managed by governments, scientific and educational organisations, commercial entities and others. The management committee will need to be re-organised to carry out additional duties and a tiered format is suggested.

The first tier will look after business, legal, security and other aspects, as well as the day-to-day development and operation of the core databases.

The second tier will review material being made available from external sources and will design and manage the interfaces which will receive or read future incoming data and present outgoing data to the public.

The third tier will analyse the data and create the functions which will populate the usage and material codes and use this information to generate characteristics and usages for specified BEUs and XEUs.

The fourth tier will develop functions which will utilise the usage information to develop formulae and processes to define optimal and suboptimal rankings for BEUs and XEUs as required for different kinds of operation. This section will listen to the public and offer advice. It may also be involved in training those involved in remedial or conversion works or in future maintenance.

Note that the word tier in this sense does not imply any ranking of skills or experience. Rather it reflects the structure of the database and its appended information and the specialist skills required in different areas.

Where will these actions be taken?

The advent of Cloud technology allows very large volumes of data in one or more databases to be accessed by large numbers of people in different places. Servers accessing this data should be maintained in different parts of world, to reduce the vulnerability due to cyber attacks or physical conflicts. It will also offer opportunities for local people to become involved and gain experience in the collection or management the data and the nature of the projects it may generate.

These projects may take place anywhere on the globe. However, where clusters of the same kind of work can be identified, it would be useful to establish depots for the local manufacture and storage of equipment and materials. They could also be used to manage facilities for the training of volunteers and long-term workers.

What are other key benefits?

Both of my current proposals to MIT Colab are services. That is, after due preparation, they will wait for people and organisations to use them in support of whatever activities they are engaged in. My hope is that, while not denying them to governments, commercial entities, educational institutions and activists, they will help the large mass of individual people to decide what is good for the world (and naturally, for themselves). There are many large-scale projects taking place to improve the land and the climate, but the ongoing success will depend upon the involvement of individuals and communities at a very low level. The success of their efforts will depend upon the advice and the resources given to them by those with a worldwide vision as to what activities will give optimal and beneficial results.

What are the proposal’s costs?

In operational terms, this proposal describes a service, where the costs can be divided between management, accommodation, equipment and staffing. Setting up the database is a fairly mechanical operation and can be costed reasonably accurately. However, as interest grows and the model expands, staffing and equipment costs will grow exponentially as the range of services to clients increases.

Development will take place in three phases. The first is the creation of an empty database with all of the necessary tables for the storage of BEU, XEU, Land Usage codes and physical data. The second phase is the development and execution of a program which will populate the BEU and Land Usage tables. The third phase is the development of the App which will identify the BEU in which any nominated set of GPS co-ordinates resides and will assist in the maintenance of the database copy on the client’s system. These are purely mathematical exercises and should be completed in a few weeks at most. Expenses will include the purchase of a quite modest computer and the time spent by technicians in writing and executing the computer programs. Once these tasks have been completed, the availability of the database and the App may be advertised for public acquisition, with perhaps a small purchase price for the App.

Initially, physical information and land usage information will be provided by interested organisations and people. However, where the need for data supporting larger projects suggested by client information is identified, activities to collect data in large or remote areas might be obtained from satellite information or teams on the ground. Costs of these would normally be borne by governments or investigators.

Finally, material data, whether donated by clients or identified in other proprietary databases, may prompt the development of other databases to formalise this information and analyse it to determine optimal usage. Such costs normally be would be borne by beneficiaries.

Time line

The creation of an empty database, its population with BEU specifications and the development of an App to identify them on the ground is the first step. This can be carried out within a fixed term, probably a few months. Once these resources have been distributed to interested parties, progress will depend on the degree of acceptance and response. If resources are available (e.g. satellite imagery), details of large structures and remote usages could be collected and added to the database during this first phase, but would probably continue thereafter for some time afterwards.

Ongoing work in the future will be focussed on the generation or identification of optimal land or sea usage codes and advice on how to achieve them in BEUs with specific profiles.

Note: I am a member of the Australian Computer Society and I have suggested to them that, if initial progress is slow, they might be prepared to set up a project for students to do the work under supervision. Australia is a large country with a huge variety of landscapes and activities and might be a very suitable laboratory for this sort of initiative.

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