"AIR is a public, social experiment in which people are invited to use Preemptive Media's portable air monitoring devices to explore their neighborhoods and urban environments for pollution and fossil fuel burning hotspots.If you're based in or around New York City, I encourage you to participate in this terrific project. I just signed up myself, and I really hope that someone will pass along one of the devices. I'm eager to carry it back to my Queens stomping grounds where, so far, it appears no participants have headed.
Participants or 'carriers' are able to see pollutant levels in their current locations, as well as simultaneously view measurements from the other AIR devices in the network. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources such as power plants and heavy industries, allow carriers to see their distance from polluters as well. The AIR devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real time data visualization on this website."
Although the binocular sized device that Preemptive Media is distributing only measures carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide levels, these gases are two of the fivemajor airborne pollutants listed by the Environmental Protection Agency. As such, they are regulated by the Clean Air Act - not to be confused with the dubious, industry-friendly Clean Skies Act of 2003 - along with ground-level ozone, particulate matter (or PM) and sulfur dioxide.
Most human-produced aerosol pollution - as opposed to particulate matter that occurs naturally - concentrates downwind of urban areas and major industries. The AIR initiative, then, will not be a fair assessment of the reach or magnitude of New York's aerosol influence, but the results will surely be of interest to anyone concerned about pollution and, more generally, global warming.
But the numbers aren't what I find so exciting about AIR. The greatest boon of this project is its appeal to a demographic that must become more invested in environmental and political issues. When air pollution or water quality measurements are made "hip" - I can envision an AIR advertising campaign riffing on the ubiquitous iPod posters and commercials - and accessible, an opportunity is provided for individual investigation of fields that most of us comprehend only in an abstract and limited way. In this case, the invisible world is made pertinent and, in turn, the individual made part of the greater organism.
Photo credit: both images ripped from the AIR website