Coloring books are supposed to calm your nerves and help you unplug from the daily hustle. But this Kickstarter campaign wants to bring you a coloring book about one of the most anxiety-inducing issues of our century: climate change.
Instead of coloring intricate shapes or animals, you can trace the extent of Arctic sea ice 20 years ago and see what was lost since then, color a year of air pollution in Beijing, or fill in the parts of Manhattan that would be eaten away by rising sea levels. It might not sound like your typical, meditative coloring book — but it’s also not really supposed to be, says Brian Foo, the 31-year-old data artist and computer scientist behind the project.
Foo works with data visualization, and he’s been working on public exhibits related to climate change at the American Museum of Natural History. His goal is to help people understand climate change, so he thought a coloring book filled with easy-to-grasp and engaging activities was the way to do it. What he loves about the format is that coloring books take time, and that might help with the learning process.
“If you can sit with a particular issue like climate change” for 30 minutes or an hour, Foo tells The Verge, “it might reinforce the information and give you the time to reflect on the underlying issues.”
All the data visualized in the book comes from authoritative sources, especially NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Foo says. That’s because another goal of the book is to promote data literacy, and teach people to look for the source when presented with information and understand who’s reputable.
The result is a 40-page book filled with over 20 coloring activities paired with explanations of the research and the sources. One activity asks you to color a map of the US showing carbon emissions from fossil fuels. In another one, you have to color 20 football fields in under a minute, which is about how fast we’ve been losing global forests for the past 25 years.
“I try to kind of walk the person through the causes, effects, and possible solutions of climate change,” Foo says. In fact, some of the activities at the end of the book focus on what you can do to address climate change. Some visualizations show you the different carbon emissions of various forms of transportation, for instance. The whole book will be printed on recycled paper using plant-based ink.
The Kickstarter ends on May 21st, and it’s already racked up over $7,000 (with a $5,000 goal.) Backers can expect the book during the summer. A lot of high school science teachers have expressed interest in the project, but the book is not intended for kids only, Foo says. His goal is to reach as wide an audience as he can to make people aware of global warming. And if a coloring book is what it takes, so be it.
“A lot of the problems with the communication of climate change is that a lot of times it’s treated as a belief: you either believe in climate change or you don’t,” Foo says. “With this book, I’m interested in trying to get people to focus on the data, the information, the science.”