SaveEarthApp!: A Journey of a Youth Blending Technology into Environmental Conservation
by Amon Kizawa
Every year, 11 million tons of plastics enter our oceans, equivalent to the weight of about 78,000 blue whales. 10 million hectares of forest disappear each year, about the same size as Portugal. A whopping 34 billion tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere each year. The future of the earth seems hopeless to anyone, and so does it to me.
Growing up in the large port city of Yokohama, Japan, I have sensed significant changes around me that are steadily taking place. The seaweed that used to crowd along the coast ten years ago is now almost gone. A local fisherman once told me that the catch of mantis shrimp had decreased by less than one-third in the last few decades. I couldn't stand by these devastations and made up my mind to do something to preserve the ocean I have loved since my childhood.
I believe that changing individual behaviors serves most greatly environmental conservation because a large part of plastic pollution, deforestation, or CO2 emissions comes from unnecessary uses of particular goods and energy in our everyday lives. That's why I first created my podcast series called "TeensOceanVoice" with 5 passionate teens to spread awareness of marine conservation. We introduced cutting-edge technologies to save the ocean and discussed them from the youth's perspective as well as proposed creative ideas on what we can do for the environment. TeensOceanVoice started on a small scale at first, but now we have more than 10 people from around Asia, with the activity recognized by UN World Oceans Day.
Yes, the podcast has reached people around the globe and encouraged them to take action. But I still felt that something was missing and I could do even more. What if someone understands they have to do something but don't know where to start? Or what if someone wants to learn about the problems more actively, not just by listening to podcasts and reading articles? After pondering over and over, I came to think that what we needed was a "tool" to directly help people to learn and act. Having studied programming for the past four years, it was natural for me to try tackling environmental conservation with the power of technology, which could bring an idea into real shape. Here I introduce "SaveEarthApp!," an iOS app I have developed that can assist people to take a step forward to preserving our beautiful earth.
SaveEarthApp! has mainly two sections: "LeARn" and "Act." In the LeARn section, you can explore your options to conserve the environment with your camera using augmented reality (AR) technology. When you tap on a horizontal surface such as a table or floor on the screen, the app will show a random 3D object with an AR infographic to describe what you can do with the object. The Act section looks like a game; it shows an interactive 3D earth in the center and the buttons at the bottom, each with a written choice of action. You would gain SaveEarth points for performing additional eco-friendly activities; the more points you have, the brighter the earth becomes. This section can be used for the records of your behaviors as well as understanding their impacts visually.
Through developing the SaveEarthApp!, I experienced firsthand how computer science, especially cutting-edge visual technologies like 3D modeling and AR, can prompt behavioral changes that serve the mission of environmental conservation, which is a cause dear to my heart. In the future, I hope to implement features like live object detection with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) to my app, as well as explore the field of extended reality other than AR such as virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) to create solutions to the environmental crisis from a novel perspective: technology.