Country/area: Egypt

Organisation: It is an individual project that I published on my personal website (alhadaqa.com)

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 15 Nov 2020

Credit: Mohamad Waked

Project description:

The relationship between nature and human has always been one of the most complex relationships that can be understood, despite its inevitability. Despite the care and tenderness Nature gives to human, but she may revolt and get angry at them. We saw this anger in the past, so the Pompeii disaster is unforgettable example, and this anger is still repeated in different forms until the present day, This work analyzes and presents the most significant natural disasters that have occurred on the planet earth since 1900, which collectively caused the deaths of more than 33 million people.

Impact reached:

To see the big picture of the history of natural disasters of all types and the deaths they have caused as a basic indicator of the extent of their violence, a matter that calls for rethinking and reconsideration, and opens the door for more questions, the most important of which are what might anger nature in this way, and is this anger or part of it nothing but a response of what we humans have done in terms of wrong practices, constant attacks, and a disrespect for their sanctity.  And wondering about the forms of this anger, how often it occurs, and what are the most catastrophic areas.

The project has achieved good resonance since its publication, and the reactions of readers and specialists have been very good. The project has been promoted by the Data Visualization Society (DVS) through its Facebook channel as well as the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), where it was considered one of the top 10 projects that were circulated globally during its launch week. It was promoted by the South African Naked Data Newsletter as well as by the German platform TiBS | Tiroler Bildungsservice.

Techniques/technologies used:

The data was collected and merged from two sources: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) and from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The data were combined, cleaned, analyzed, and some initial graphs were produced using the programming language R. Then the main concept and idea were developed in form of freehand sketches. Then the final production was developed was using JavaScript and D3js as a main library.

Regarding the story of the POMPEII disaster, it was based on historical sources that mentioned the history of the city and the details of the disaster, as well as some documentaries that documented the moments of revealing some of the secrets of the stricken city.

Finally, the illustrations that accompanied the story were produced using Procreate and Affinity Designer programs.

What was the hardest part of this project?

During work on the project, there were several challenges, but the biggest of them was the balances that were placed in the initial conception of the project, such as:

  1. A story that links the past to the present, relies on data without losing sight of emotion, combines historical facts and does not overlook human feelings.
  2. A story that sheds light on and balance between the human right to live on Earth and the nature right to survive and continue, so we do not oppress nature as the only culprit, and do not view man as the victim along the way, as he may have gone beyond his limits without noticing that.
  3. The balance between building up data visualizations that reflects what the numbers say, but at the same time it carries the spirit of nature and the randomness it contains.
  4. The balance between explanatory storytelling and Exploratory freedom for the viewer to explore and discover more while reading the story and talking about numbers, So the decision was to make all disaster points discoverable when hovering over them with the mouse in all data visuals.

What can others learn from this project?

I think that the most important thing that can be learned by any viewer of this work is the big picture of the most significant natural disasters throughout our recent history and the direct impact which basically represented by the number of deaths in various places and over the years.

But for journalists, the most important thing that can be learned is to focus on the following basic elements and ensure their presence in the journalistic work, which helps the reader to use his total brain power to fully understand the presented content:

  1. Story
  2. Empathy 
  3. Image or Illustration
  4. Data Graph
  5. Exploration

Project links: