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NPO Earth Literacy Project’s (ELP) communications strategy, and the “gift”.

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) Global Assessment Report, 2013 (GAR13) graphic identity and communications strategy was developed by ELP, a communications consultancy best known for creating the Tangible Earth (TE) interactive globe. The brief was to create a positive, empowering communications strategy around the GAR13, supported by ELP’s expertise in integrated geospatial data presentation. In the pre-computer age, communications were conducted primarily via print. Then, with the advent of the personal computer came interactive media, and the Internet. Now, mobile personal computing enables temporal and geospatial “glocal” information — at once specifically local, but rooted in a global context — and this is crucial to understanding disaster reduction.

Developing a communications strategy integrating print and interactive geospatial data means employing design strategies which enable “mash-ups”, such that in all versions of GAR13 the color schemes and legends adhere to a common set of standards: A “level 3″ red in any graph or map is applicable to a “level 3″ red in any other graph or map in print or interactive application, regardless of what it’s original color scheme or organizational standard was. All data representations are much more easily compared and contrasted.

ELP also developed a stand-alone tablet computer “app” supplement to the GAR, called the GAR for Tangible Earth, or GfTE (=read “gift”). The GfTE includes key components from throughout the history of GAR, DesInventar, and PreventionWeb, and features additional interactive disaster risk mapping tools, and suggestions about disaster reduction “best practices” from around the world. It also has Augmented Reality (AR) edutainment functions, so that used in conjunction with the GAR13 static graphs can be animated, and related videos linked to via the tablet computer’s screen.

The GfTE features a 3D “live Earth” interface, with weather data updated hourly from satellite feeds via the Internet: The clouds you see when you look down at the GfTE real-time planet interface are the same clouds you’ll see if you look up at the sky while you’re using it. Disaster prevention invariably has both both global and local aspects because whether in matters of nature, industry or economics, our planet is one. In an increasingly developed world, risk drivers are increasingly global. Disasters aren’t “local issues” of some devastated area in a distant locale. When disasters break out anywhere on the planet, the GfTE is an excellent tool for getting the larger picture.

But more than just fostering a real-time appreciation of disaster prevention, the GfTE also comes bundled with decades of Earth science and developmental data, enabling users to browse not only animations of disasters from all GAR, but also to explore the impacts of numerous risk drivers on each other over time, by creating animations of their own based on up to four criteria. We are the first generation provided the opportunity to forecast and anticipate disasters, and thereby mitigate disaster damage and impact extent, and prepare for creative adaptation. All around us, preconceptions of “1000 year” or “unprecedented” events are falling away. Major disasters are the norm, not the exception. The planet has had an exceptionally stable climate these past 10,000 years, but that it not to say that it is not changing, or that we don’t need to educate ourselves about it. Disasters are not incidents to be passively endured. More often than not they are intimately linked to our decisions as a society. We can choose to reduce our exposure, and our risk, or to exacerbate it.

Of course this is precisely the key theme of the GAR13: Creating Shared Value, which ELP symbolized using the upside down umbrella icon. An umbrella is an ubiquitous small-form shelter from the elements, which anyone can afford, but held upside down, it is reborn as an empowering rainwater harvesting tool. From such simple and easily implemented small steps comes creative adaptation, from such perceptual shifts come the steps towards solving global issues such as water shortages and other disasters; considered co-existence, taken together. Creativity is our greatest resource.

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