When it comes to the environment, we simply can’t hide from the facts surrounding our human impact on the globe.
We have a world that is so full of flora, fauna, natural phenomena and scientific autonomy that has kept the world turning for hundreds of years – shout out to David Attenborough for helping us understand some of the more complex and rare natural occurrences – and as we delve into an era where that natural world as we know it is in crisis, we need to protect the world that has fostered our very existence.
At Pufferfish, we take great pride in telling meaningful stories, and stories that we feel can develop positive change. We truly value our planet and want to encourage others to tell these crucial topics, and as a result work together to help our environment. Join us as we detail three key data sets as visual stories of global phenomena that feed into this environmental conversation; Ocean Plastics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Ozone Layer.
With the likes of the BBC and Sir Attenborough himself covering these topics in recent weeks, we felt there was no better time than now to visualise these compelling topics.
Ocean Plastics – NASA's SVS
Forming part of a data exploration entitled ‘The Garbage Patch’, NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) experimented with the global movement of ocean plastics. We’ve all seen this in action, if not through the likes of Blue Planet, then definitely through our local news agencies. Ocean plastic is a phenomenon that is quickly getting out of hand, and with the earth observation capabilities of NASA, they were able to learn behaviours in this man-made occurrence.
“We wanted to see if we could visualize the so-called ocean garbage patches…” (Greg Shirah and Horace Mitchell, NASA) Using buoy data sets released by NOAA since the early 1980s, NASA SVS tracked these buoy movements and noticed there were clear ‘garbage patches’ where the buoys naturally drifted to – 6 in total, to be exact. Seeing these particles develop in each of the ocean basins depicted a clear behaviour in global ocean movement, and while the experiment isn’t showcasing real plastic levels (just scientific buoys), this behaviour can be used to analyse plastic fluidity and therefore be ahead of the pollution removal process. “Even though the retimed buoys and modelled particles did not react to currents at the same times, the fact that the data tend to accumulate in the same regions show how robust the result is.”
This kind of storytelling is a prime example of how to give visual context to worldwide topics as a method of enhancing understanding.
The purpose? To use our understanding to form problem solving methods to mitigate the global plastic problem.
Fossil Fuel, CO2 Emissions - ODIAC
Greenhouse Gas Emissions are a global phenomenon that have been a topic of discussion for some time now. I’m sure charging Farmers ‘Methane Tax’ from their cow’s gas comes to mind… And being that a greenhouse gas is ‘any gaseous compound in the atmosphere that is capable of absorbing infrared radiation, thereby trapping and holding heat in the atmosphere’, they have been seen as a key contributor to Global Warming.
Generated from burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat, and transportation, ODIAC wanted to visualise the global impact of fossil fuel CO2 emissions, and allow people to see the worldwide impact of an emission that to the human eye is otherwise non-existent. Showcasing nightlight data and power plant emission data from 1980 through to 2017, the data visualisation exercise tells a strong story on the sphere in its inherent format. As a result, we have a borderless view of a key contributing factor to the increase in global temperatures… a story that we feel might be worth telling for a while yet.
The Ozone Layer Hole – NASA / NOAA
A topic our Southern Hemisphere friends know too well – the Ozone Layer (or Earth’s sunscreen) that “shields our planet from potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts, suppress immune systems and also damage plants.” (NASA) While the hole in the Ozone Layer showed a positive decrease in size in 2019, it’s far from gone. The visualisation shown here (and above) of this complex data set tells the shocking story of its strength in the Earth's atmosphere.
This Ozone ‘depletion’ is said to be caused when chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons (gases formerly found in aerosol spray cans and refrigerants) are released into the atmosphere; And when seeing this complex data set visualised on the sphere, we can see the hole changing in shape and size as these global effects take cause. There is no way to hide from these very real effects on the environment, and as we see the hole (depicted in red here) transform, it gives again a borderless view but also a very potent view. While our naked eye can't see it day to day, it is very active.
The world we inhabit is alive as we are, and it truly echoes the importance of taking care of our environment before it’s too late.
There is no limit to the stories that can be told on our solutions, just as there is no limit to the stories we can showcase about our environment. But these are stories that deserve to be told, and that should be discussed and debated; and with our solutions allowing users to have the world at their fingertips (literally), it encourages engagement with these global phenomena that might otherwise feel foreign.
This is just the beginning, and we hope to encourage positive change from showcasing these stories in interactive, intuitive and tactile ways.
This is OUR world after all, and it’s a collective responsibility that we all hold. Let’s change it together!