Hello, World-Changer! 

Are you fascinated by the quest of using real-time environmental data to drive change, like a game?  

Sign up for our free monthly "Fitbit for the Planet" video hangouts on the first Tuesday of the month at:
USA 10am PST / 1pm EST,  UK 6pm BST

What we'll be talking about
How to collect real-time environmental data from sensors and utilize data sets and APIs.
Processing of aerial and satellite images into data sets.
AI and machine learning applications for environmental data.
Behavioral psychology that gets people to take pro-environmental action.
Gamification theory and how to apply it to environmental and social impact causes.
User interface design for making change happen.
Digital displays of environmental data such as AR/AX, digital billboards and LED screens.
Why we need imagination, vision, and creativity to drive environmental innovation forward.

Next Video Hangout Coming Soon 

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Dates for 2022:  April 5th, May 3rd, June 7th, July 5th, August 2nd, September 6th, October 4th, November 1st, December 6th
Each video hangout is edited into an episode on the How to Save the World podcast, shared with 37,000+ environmental nerds/hackers  professionals
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Event partners

Climate Designers is the global hub for designers and creative professionals from all industries, committed to using our creative skills for climate action. Join Climate Designers.
Conservation X Labs encourages community-driven open technology development for conservation. Join Conservation X Labs events and challenges.
 Earth Hacks hosts hackathons that bring together people from all backgrounds to work on environmental technology projects. Join Earth Hacks upcoming events.

Previous "Fitbit for the Planet"guests

Designing Technologies for Learning Bird Calls to Support Citizen Science & Wildlife Conservation  with Jessie Oliver, PhD candidate
Jessie is researching how to design enticing technologies that support us all to learn about calls of the wild through exploring audio recordings at Queensland Institute of Technology, Australia.

JESSIE'S RESEARCH: Do you ever hear animals you never see? Well, many secretive and rare animals, such as Eastern bristlebirds, can be most easily found by the sounds that they make. We can only do this, however, if we learn how to decipher their calls! In her PhD research, Jessie is exploring how to design future technologies that support people in becoming familiar with identifying bird calls from audio recordings. Birders and members of the public explored Jessie’s research prototypes, such as the Bristle Whistle Challenge. Conservationists and members of the public are likely to benefit from having enticing tools that include creative playful and task-oriented gameful interactions with bird calls. Such tools may support many people, whether learning calls for fun, or to support citizen science, ecology, or wildlife conservation efforts.

Learn more about Jessie’s PhD and broader research here, and email or connect via Twitter for paper access.

Sebastian Schlecht, Lala Ruhr + Robin Romer, CityScaper
Lala Ruhr recently held a festival promoting the ecological re-imagining of German cities. CityScaper is a software that creates a 3D mesh of a street and an augmented reality experience viewable though a tablet or smartphone. 

THE LALA RHUR PROJECT: The Lala Rhur lab recently hosted a festival in Germany about reimagining the urban environment. Architect and co-founder, Sebastian Schelcht, and the team at CityScaper software created an augmented reality experience where anyone could hold their iPad or smartphone up to view the real-life main street and "see" what the street would look like filled with an ecotopia vision of trees, gardens, and vines. People could also design their own green streetscape by adding plants, flowers, and animals (there are some random zebras in there 🦓 😂). This augmented reality experience could be a powerful way to sell the dream of the biophilic city to residents, funders, and governments.

Learn about Lala Ruhr and CityScaper.

Kay Vasey and Olivier Bos from MeshMinds

MESHMINDS' CREATIONS: MeshMinds is a creative studio making planet-themed augmented reality games. They work with the United Nations Environment Programme to create fun AR experiences on Instagram to increase engagement and social media sharing of environmental campaigns. We'll be diving into various creative ways you can use Spark AR to create fun interactions that can be used to drive support for environmental campaigns or behaviors.

Learn about Mesh Minds.

Anais Voski on the ecological significance of "The Overview Effect" experienced by astronauts when viewing space
Anais is a postgraduate researcher at Stanford University focusing on environmental psychology and the ecological significance of "the overview effect."

ANAIS'S RESEARCH: The first moon landing on 1969 was more than a momentous technical feat. It delivered something unexpected that wasn't about the rocket ships and astronaut suits we usually see. The moon landing delivered humanity's first ever images of the Earth photographed from space – "the blue dot." It's hard to believe that the images we have our our beautiful blue, green, and white speckled planet hadn't existed until a few decades ago.  Until then, no one really knew what the Earth looked like.

These first images of the Earth from space are given credit for the sudden ecological awareness that grew rapidly through the 1970s and 1980s. Seeing the Earth from space is called "the overview effect" and Anais, a PhD candidate at Stanford University studies the effect it has on astronauts. From her insights she will share what this means for the environmental movement and how we can weave this deeply touching psychological phenomenon in to our work as on-the-ground sustainability practitioners.

See her research here.

Alice Gottesman and Kai Kresek on mapping the world's forests from satellite data

Global Forest Watch (GFW) is a map-based platform that allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world.

WHAT GLOBAL FOREST WATCH DOES: What would it take to make "A Fitbit of the world's forests"? As you could imagine, it would be a momentous task. Global Forest Watch is doing it. It's one of the world's most technically ambitious ecological monitoring projects that maps and monitors the entire Earth's forest cover, with high frequency updates, ecological health insights, and displays it on beautiful and easy-to-use browser interface. Global Forest Watch a partnership between the World Resources Institute and multiple philanthropic bodies, conversation NGOs, and universities.

The technical intricacy of this project spans right from the satellites that collect the data through to processing the images, the algorithms that scan for tree cover and calculate changes, the depth of data in the electromagnetic spectrum and how it conveys ecological health, and how to get it all looking nice and loadable on a browser. And then there's the biggest question of all – how does all this data visualization actually help forests get protected off the computer?  How do we use complex environmental data to drive change in the real world?

See the Global Forest Watch platform here.

Joshua Carlson PhD on the neuroscience of scary vs positive climate change images

Joshua Carlson is a professor of psychological science at North Michigan University and the director of the  | Cognitive x Affective Behavior & Integrated Neuroscience (CABIN) Lab.  

JOSHUA CARLSON'S RESEARCH: What kind of images should we be using to capture people's attention to get them to take action on climate change? Environmental communications has often used "negative" images such as drought, fire, melting glaciers, pollution, or deforestation. However, we also use  "positive" images that show solutions such as solar panels, green roofs, or wind turbines. Joshua's research tested the effect that positive (solutions oriented) images and negative (problem orientated) images had on people's attention and cognition. He'll be sharing his insights on how negative climate images were found to slow attention and cause a "freezing" effect which has serous implications for how we should communicate about climate change.

See his research here

Listen to the podcast episode with Joshua Carlson here. 

Joshua D. Wright PhD on environmental imagination exercises

Joshua is an assistant professor at St Joseph's College in New York.

JOSHUA WRIGHT'S RESEARCH:  Joshua D. Wright researches the power of the “environmental imagination” and how it drives people to take action. His recent research gave people an exercise in imagining an environmentally harmonious world and tested the effect this exercise had on people's political activism and pro-environmental behavior. It’s about communicating “solutions” instead of “problems” – and it makes a dramatic difference to how people respond. His research into "cognitive alternatives" (an alternative future) has his big implications into how leaders inspire groups to form and how groups gain momentum to influence larger society.

See his research

Listen to the Podcast episode with Joshua here

Jaap Ham PhD on how colored lights and animatronic cats change our energy use.

Jaap is a professor at Eindhoven University and he studies how technology influences people's energy consumption behavior.

JAAP'S RESEARCH: What if a light indicated your energy use to you by changing color depending on how much electricity you were using? Jaap's research tests the effect that colored light gauges have on kWh use (red is high, orange is medium, and green is low) and how people change their energy use in response to the color. What is most fascinating about his research is how people start to saving energy in response to the lights even if they don't consciously notice the lighting feedback, and simply how the hue of regular white lights can effect people's perception of temperature. He's run a quirky experiment using an animatronic cat they refer to as a "persuasive robot" that communicates your energy use to you with happy and sad emotions that had impressive results.

See his publications here

Listen to the podcast episode with Jaap here. 

John Peterson on how to design an environmental dashboard that works

Systems Ecologist, Paul Sears Professor of Environmental Studies and Biology, Oberlin College.

JOHN PETERSEN'S RESEARCH: John and his team created the created of the delightful environmentaldashboard.org. He has published multiple papers on how feedback loops of environmental data influence human behavior. He has been developing real-time feedback display technology for buildings, organizations, and whole cities with the goal of engaging, educating, motivating and empowering resource conservation and pro-environmental and pro-community thought and action.

Scroll through his published papers here

Listen the podcast episode with John here

Hey, did you see Energy Lollipop, the real "Fitbit for the Planet" product we launched? It's a Chrome extension that shows California's grid CO2 emissions in real-time. Install and try it out!

Install Chrome extension

Jesse Schell on how to save the planet like a game designer  Distinguished Professor of Entertainment Technology, Carnegie Mellon University; CEO of Schell Games; Author of The Art of Game Design

JESSE SCHELL'S WORK: Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, a team of one hundred twenty-five people in Pittsburgh, PA who strive to make the world’s greatest educational and entertainment games, including Yale Medical's PlayForward: Elm City Stories, Water Bears VR, HoloLAB Champions, the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood games, and Happy Atoms. 

Jesse also serves as Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University. Jesse has worked on a wide variety of innovative game and simulation projects for both entertainment and education, but he is best known for his award-winning book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses and his predictions about the future of gaming technology. He is a previous chair of the International Game Developers Association and former Creative Director of the Disney Virtual Reality Studio.

Listen to the podcast episode with Jesse Schell.

Naomi Augustine-Lee on using Magic Leap's augmented reality glasses to make a real-time digital twin on Los Angeles

Lead of Innovation, Spatial Computing, Magic Leap. Naomi is building a 3D virtual world that can be seen through Magic Leap glasses. It's not a fantasy world though, it's a real-time digital twin of Los Angeles that injects real-time environmental data. Naomi will show us her Magic Leap experience and talk about what it takes to build a real digital city. 

NAOMI'S WORK: Naomi Augustine-Yee was Magic Leap’s recent innovation lead where she was building the world’s first city-scale digital twin of Los Angeles in AR. She spoke with is about how we can use Magic Leap’s technology to simulate, predict, and visualize future world scenarios and leverage the power that comes from imagining environmental solutions using Magic Leap’s augmented reality goggles. Using the popular game development software, Unity, we can create a three-dimensional simulation of a new kind of future — ecotopia wonders such as buildings blanketed in green walls, orchards nestled between buildings, and dragonfly-wing-shaped vertical farms. In this augmented reality 3D world, you could walk around and through it. You could look up to see wind turbines, hanging gardens, and birds flying past

Listen to the podcast episode with Noami Augustine-Yee