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Economy Map: Visualizing the Eco-Impact of Industry

What crude oil production has to do with interface design and public advocacy.

We’re big believers in data visualization as a sensemaking mechanism for the world. Economy Map, a new project from Jason Pearson, former President and CEO of the sustainability institute GreenBlue, aims to be just that by offering an interactive visual map of the US economy and its impact on the environment.

The ambitious project draws on data from the 2009 EPA report and maps the envionmental impact of specific sectors of the economy, ranging from crude oil production to advertising and nearly everything in between. But the project’s greatest strength lies in its capacity for pattern-recognition, illustrating not only the effect of specific sectors but also how they affect one another to exponentially impact the environment.

Each sectoris represented by a dot on a grid. A bubble around it depicts the size of its impact on one of the environmental factors examined — ozone depletion, human toxicity and global warming. Lines connecting the different bubbles illustrate “flows” between these sectors — for instance, see how many different sectors oil production draws on.

Though the interface is a bit clunky and counter-intuitive, Economy Map is not only an important educational tool for us in the “general public” but also a useful resource for public interest advocates and policymakers as they strive to identify areas where environmental impact can be reduced.

via FastCo Design

Published December 8, 2010




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