Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler – China

Matthew Anderson – US

Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler

What a concept! Take a tradition like kite flying that is loved in China and turn it into an air quality monitoring project! That’s what she did. Xiaowei Wang and Deren Guler were a pair of graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University and decided they could combine technology, design, environmental activism and the local tradition of kite-flying to create FLOAT Beijing. It’s a project with the goal of empowering citizens to use kites equipped with air quality sensors as an activism tool in monitoring their local aerial environment.

Here is an instructional video that was made to encourage Beijing residents to DIY using simple materials and open-source technology.

According to the US Embassy’s Beijing Air Quality Monitor, a combination of more than five million cars and fumes from factories lead to a very high level of particulate matter — sometimes as much as 500 parts per million, which is 20 times higher than World Health Organisation guidelines.

Guler says that the main goal is to empower people with tools for knowledge through citizen science. Once the data is collected by participants, they can focus on potential reasons for differences in air quality reports and discrepancies.

The project funding came from Kickstarter crowdfunding and also from grants from The Awesome Foundation and the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

Basically, during the kite’s flight, sensors measure pollutants such as volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Depending on how polluted and disgusting the air is, or how breathable it is, the lights on the kites will change to green, yellow or red.

Supporters of the project like it, because it bypasses short-sighted, bureaucratic rigidity and empowers local residents. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how politically charged smog monitoring in China is. In 2012, Chinese officials gleefully welcomed that 2,000 new cars were joining its clogged streets every day. Wang confesses that they thought no one would show up to the workshops, or that it would only be university studies or expats. However, they were pleasantly surprised at the number of elderly people who wanted to participate. Once word spread, more people from their neighborhoods from different age groups came.

After conducting workshops and group kite flights to encourage participation, Float emphasized the visual and sensory experience of their project.

Xiaowei said, “From the ground looking up, it’s like a kite flash mob because the sky is full of all these kites.”

I love this video of Xiaowei describing the project and its purpose.

Sources: CNN, Harvard News, Vimeo, Design to Improve Life, Wired UK, Vice, Azure Magazine, Youtube, Inhabitat, TreeHugger, Wired

Matthew Anderson

After working with 350.org for a while, Anderson found that many people would ask to use fonts found on the site’s marketing page, but were limited by licensing agreements. He created Klima. It is described as a free typeface for those who want to design powerful marketing materials for climate change but may not have had access to the tools needs for effective visual communication.

“It started as a side project,” Anderson says. “There’s actually a quote from Jonathan Hoefler [of H&FJ, one of the best type foundries out there right now] that sums it up: ‘I never wanted to draw typefaces, I wanted to have typefaces… I couldn’t find the tools I needed, so I made my own.’ It felt like there was the perfect opportunity to make the typeface that I’d been wanting to use myself, and to make a tool that could help empower people working on climate change.”

He’s been working on developing another free typeface as well. He enjoys sharing the tools to build a sense of togetherness.

The font in this cartoon is Klima, a free typeface for the climate movement by Matthew Anderson. The cartoon is free to be republished with a high rez version available. Courtesy: Skeptical Science

Klima, a free typeface for the climate movement

An example of Klima typeface. Courtesy: ThBoom!

Sources: FastCoexist, ThBoom, Osocio.org, Humanitarian News, Co2Now.org, Skeptical Science



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