A few days ago, these images of iconic buildings in Beijing as they look with and without intense smog have been posted on Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media platforms. Interestingly, these images speak the visual language of augmented reality apps, in which an additional layer of information is projected on top of the perceptible environment as seen through the lens of a camera, usually on a hand-held device. But in this particular case, an interesting reversal seems to take place.
Researchers at Nasa’s Center for Climate Simulation (NCCS) in Maryland can deploy a supercomputer called the “Discover”. This unique data processor and calculator can take months to come up with a climate prediction, using programs that have 1 million lines of code, or even more. Everything is in a windowless huge room, packed with linked computers and wires.
By burning fossil fuels we are responsible for the increase of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. Aside from raising temperatures globally, this is also affecting our oceans. The massive production of CO2 is causing ocean acidification, and the results are frightening.
Researches on this matter are quite recent and very difficult to get into, especially because it is impossible to study acidification in isolation; the results may vary depending on the amount of sunlight, temperature and the presence of oxygen. Nevertheless it has been proven that the impact on marine faune is devastating, especially for the formation of shells and coral reefs.
We love buying shiny new gadgets every now and then, but have you ever wondered where your old device ends up when you get rid of it? Agbogbloshie in Ghana is one of the places where electronics, such as computers, mobile phones and televisions, go to die.
“God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands” Voltaire said in the 18th century. Waterlicht is a recent project by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde that reminds us about this quote and therefore how humans have had an impact on the landscape of the Netherlands.
As a virtual flood submerging Museum Square in Amsterdam, Waterlicht shows how high the water could reach in the Dutch capital without human intervention.
“Waterlicht shows how the Netherlands looks like without waterworks — a virtual flood. Innovation is seen throughout our landscape, pushed by the waterworks and our history, but yet we almost seem to have forgotten this” says Daan Roosegaarde.
The Rijksmuseum recent acquisition of the 17th century painting by Jan Asselijndepicting the 1651 Amsterdam flood was the impetus for the exhibition over Museum Square. Both pieces reflect on the water history of the Netherlands and the interaction between man, nature and technology.
It’s more than two years since I have started this exploration of the Anthropocene for Next Nature for you. We have visited many places together, places I have traveled to as a reporter, author, biologist: we have entered a graphite mine, where ancient algae are turned into high-tech gadgets, we have discovered a former military training areas that has become a neo-natural ecosystem, we have encountered plants and birds that try to live and thrive in the new geological epoch we are about to name after ourselves, the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene will not be a smooth ride, but an exciting one.
In 1928 Alfred Döblin, one of Germany’s great authors, wrote a book that in my eyes should become part of the official intellectual ancestry of the Anthropocene. It’s called “Das Ich über der Natur”, the Self Above Nature. But it’s not about human arrogance and domination of Earth, quite the opposite. Döblin describes ways how to immerse ourselves in Nature.
I was on my bike, cycling to Berlin’s Gleisdreieck area to attend Re:publica, Germany’s hip and cool digital culture event, when a pile of rubble caught my attention. “Gleisdreieck”, or “rail track triangle”, has in recent years become a hotspot of urban development. For decades, the area had been a kind of inner-city wilderness, an urban savannah with little formal use.