Everybody is freaking out about climate change—and for good reason! But sometimes we focus on the problem at the expense of another environmental scourge: Air pollution. In fact, the same forces—industry, transportation, power plants—pumping out greenhouse gases are also responsible for the dispersal of bad-for-your-health particulates such as ozone, heavy metals and toxic hydrocarbons that can cause asthma, heart disease and strokes. The problem is, these particles are so small, they're invisible to the naked eye. But environmental artist Andrea Polli has come up with a way to visualize the hazards of breathing dirty.
Called Particle Falls, Polli's work compromises a digital projection which is currently running down the side of The City Center in downtown Charlotte, N.C. The outdoor installation responds to the presence of pollutants by transforming real-time information into an animated light display. The piece does the trick by utilizing specialized computer software designed by the artist in combination with a scientific instrument called an AirBeam, which takes in air samples to track the concentration of particle pollution. The data from the AirBeam is translated by the computer into visual bursts of bright color over a background of blue light falling in a shimmering stream. The more bursts you see, the more nasty particles you’re breathing in. When, for instance, a diesel-powered goes by, Particle Falls goes nuts. But when a bicycle does the same? Obviously not. Factors like wind can also register changes on the display.
Particle Falls has toured several cities, and in honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, is making a stop in Charlotte until March 28th. And if you want to take your mind off of just how bad the air you're breathing really is, you can always check our guide to the best of Charlotte, including our recommendations for the best dining and things to do while you're in town.Share the story