Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution ... with yellow ducks

A very good way to see how we impact the environment is to ... see how we impact the environment - and this group really brings the data to life:
Real World Visuals 

Here they are looking at our favourite holiday spot:

Visualising Plastic in the Mediterranean

June 27, 2018

Like many of us, Project Everyone are concerned about plastic in our oceans. They needed an animation that would bring the scale of the problem home to an audience at Cannes Lions Festival 2018. We considered a number of ideas, including a Godzilla-like monster made from plastic litter that would emerge from the sea and start attacking people on the Boulevard de la Croisette. Our calculations indicated that a day's plastic day's litter would assemble itself into a monster 121 metres tall. Nice!

The option we finally went for gives the audience several physical insights, and allows them to use their direct experience of the world to make sense of what would otherwise be just another number. We could have shown the quantity of plastic waste by modelling the waste itself, but there's too much variety to get a feel for it. More importantly, there is something disgusting about litter, which creates a barrier to relating to it on a physical level. A 'duck' is a friendly unit of plastic, and one just about everyone has experience of handling, which makes it useful for physical insight.

The film gives a sense of the rate we are adding plastic to the sea in real-time, which is a time scale most of us can relate to. On average, 170 ducks a second - all day, every day. Viewers make sense of that rate in two ways: they 'count' the individual ducks (make a visual judgement about the scale of the number) and they also see the area they occupy grow. Counting and area are a powerful combination.

We spaced the ducks so that a day's plastic litter fits neatly in the bay. Viewers can combine a close-up view that provides a sense of the density of ducks with a sense of a familiar area. A day is also a useful unit of time to represent a rate - it's a period of time we can 'inhabit' as a whole. A year is a good unit for accounting, but it's not something we can experience as a unit, so daily quantities usually provide more insight into a rate than annual quantities. Real-time, combined with area per day, gives two different ways of making sense of the rate.

The whole film is constructed with the aim in mind of leaving the audience with a sense of scale. The child in the boat helps establish the size of the ducks and also prompts viewers to consider what a duck feels like. The diagrammatic, colourless appearance is deliberate. We want to keep viewers focused on the ducks and want to avoid provoking any irrelevant questions.

Visualising Plastic in the Mediterranean — Real World Visuals

Visualising Plastic in the Mediterranean from Real World Visuals on Vimeo.

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