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Visualizing Environmental Impacts: The Hestia Project

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I wrote in my last post here that we needed some ways to make explicit and visual the impacts our actions and behaviors have on the ecological health of our planet. If we are to truly embrace sustainability on a mass scale, in other words, we need to begin to see the damage we’re doing.

The Hestia Project is an interesting step in that direction.

According to the project site:

“The Hestia system combines diverse data about the flow and metabolism of the energy-emissions-climate nexus. Hestia can provide stakeholders an unprecedented opportunity to design and implement carbon management strategies, verify emissions reduction, strengthen and support basic research in climate prediction and carbon cycle science, and allow the public, decisionmakers, scientists and industry access to detailed space-time information on fossil/industrial energy consumption and CO2 emissions. All this will be done via an intuitive, interactive, photorealistic, three-dimensional visualization of the Earth.”

Here’s also a Fast Company article on the project.

And check out their video:

Great stuff. All of which says, to me anyway, that there are great opportunities to better understand and mitigate our ecological impacts, again, when we can see them, graphically, in real-time. Of course, I think they’re approaching this a little institutionally, and they may never be able to influence the behavior of the average consumer on the street, given their current scope. But it’s a model, and hey, it’s a start.

I hope the general concept matures, as this kind of invisible insight needs to be a public, everyday thing.

Just imagine — if you took an augmented reality concept like Google’s Project Glass and overlaid emissions data optics on the visual field of the wearer, so that wherever they went they could see the impact intensity, in real-time, right there, right then, that would be pretty interesting, wouldn’t it? If adopted widely, how would such a tool change our behavior and/or our environmental expectations?

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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