Working in collaboration with award-winning creative agency Atticus Digital, Earthwatch has created a virtual, built-up urban area. Through a series of interactions, people are able to introduce natural elements like trees and green roofs in different combinations. These nature-based solutions can help protect the city from the effects of the climate crisis, such as flooding and heatwaves, but also provide other powerful benefits such as homes for wildlife and improving people’s well-being.
The augmented reality project builds on Earthwatch’s international scientific research into nature-based solutions. The benefits of nature-based solutions vary according to local conditions, their placement, quantity and degree of management. By leading research in 17 major cities across nine countries, including the UK, the Independent Research Organisation aims to gain new insights into the effectiveness and associated benefits of natural processes locally.
Cities are increasingly vulnerable to the consequences of the climate crisis, including more severe and frequent floods and heatwaves. Urbanisation is also a major factor putting pressure on our wildlife, with 41% of UK species having declined since the 1970s.
These environmental issues can have serious and long-term impacts on the environment, economy and society, and are only expected to worsen in the face of climate change and growing urban populations.
Victor Beumer, Senior Research Lead at Earthwatch Europe explains: “Our cities are under tremendous pressure from rapid urbanisation and the effects of the climate crisis. We must harness every tool possible to explain the issues and find innovative and collaborative solutions to those problems. Augmented reality is an exciting technology and is a fun and memorable way to bring alive the science of nature-based solutions, and the benefits they can bring to cities. This experience focuses on actions which those working in the built-environment sector – such as local authorities, planners, architects, landscapers, builders and policy-makers - could take to create more sustainable cities.”
As part of their international research, Earthwatch has been collaborating with corporate partner HSBC, major research institutions in each of the 17 cities, as well as regional policy leaders. The charity will share findings from the data gathered, to help inform policy and the strategic management of nature-based solutions.
Get a sneak peek of the AR experience at Earthwatch’s free debate, Nature and the City: Tackling the Climate Crisis, at the Royal Geographical Society, London on 22 April 2020.