When art, technology & business come together for climate awakening
Linda Cheung sees her organization as a “gateway educator.” Five years ago, she founded Before It’s Too Late (BITL), a prototyping creative lab merging art and technology to educate the public about climate change.
She started exploring the convergence of virtual and physical art long before NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, started blasting the digital art world. Her interactive murals exist in the real world and are physically visible for every passer-by.
BITL’s first project appeared in 2018 and and begs the question: make no change or be the change. What future do you choose for Miami? The pilot mural design was a flashy, materialistic city’s facade while augmented reality reveals sea-level rise looming and threatening all of Miami’s beauty.
“It is challenging to get people to fully immerse themselves in sustainable behavior, but creatively planting the idea in their heads is a good start,” says Linda.
In 2018, BITL painted Anthropocene Extinction in Wynwood followed in 2019 by Liberty Gardens Park at 725 NE 125th St, North Miami, FL 33161. Most recently, in 2021 -, BITL revealed 14: Life Below Water at South Pointe Elementary School.
“A lot of times people are not interested in the format of something that sounds really serious. But when you give them art, it happens to be in their line of sight. Then they’re curious about learning more. You would think it’s about getting the facts out there, but I think a lot of times, it’s so much more irrational and emotional.”
Linda calls this approach the “climate awakening” - as people's perspectives are expanding, realizing there is a critical problem in our city and we are all contributing to it.
“Right now, one of the greatest belief systems that we are ruled by is that financial growth is the highest value that we all want to go for. With that, we have really lost our connection to nature and our connection to ourselves. We forget that what we actually care about is human wellness and equality -- and money is a tool, not the objective. We have to reexamine our value systems and belief systems about the world. To turn the tide will require our transformational, spiritual power to go to the deepest level of understanding of how much we depend on the planet, how much damage we're doing to the planet and ourselves, and what kind of society we really want to build.”
BITL’s latest project took place inside the IconBay Condominium parking garage. The mural stretches across the walls and floors surrounding each electric vehicle (EV) charging station, portraying Biscayne Bay’s endangered sea life swimming across the concrete canvas.
This project was developed in partnership with OBE Power, the second-largest EV charging network in Florida after Tesla.
Rising sea levels, surface temperatures, and ocean acidity all hurt life below the sea, and it's become clear in recent years that carbon emissions from personal vehicles are a significant contributor to this looming issue. In Miami-Dade, transportation makes up 55% of emissions, according to a 2019 accounting. About 40% of that total comes from gasoline-powered cars.
"With EV charging amenities available, residents can make the switch easier to an electric vehicle that costs less to 'fuel,' is faster, safer, and emits zero tailpipe pollution," says OBE Power's managing director Alejandro Burgana. "That's a triple win situation. I don't see a reason why anybody should not take serious consideration about driving electric. You can help preserve the environment and reduce carbon emissions."
Although zero-emission electric vehicles are better for the climate than gas-powered cars, many Americans are still reluctant to buy them. One reason: The higher upfront cost. However, new analysis demonstrates that electric cars may actually save drivers money in the long run. Experts predict that an EV will sell every 21 seconds by 2025 and that EV sales will be above 3 million by 2028.
The U.S. Department of Energy developed the eGallon tool representing the cost of driving an electric vehicle the same distance a gas-powered vehicle could travel on one gallon of gasoline. The national average cost of fuel for an electric vehicle is about 60% less than a gasoline vehicle.
On top of that, electric cars tend to have lower maintenance costs. That's because battery-electric engines have fewer moving parts that can break compared with gas-powered engines, and they don't require oil changes. Electric vehicles also use regenerative braking, which reduces wear and tear.
Electric vehicle sales have exploded in Florida, and Miami-Dade residents own more than any other county. The latest draft of Miami-Dade’s climate action strategy calls to swap out 30% of county resident vehicles to electric cars by 2030, and officials say adding more charging stations could help convince drivers to shift.
Of course, electric cars alone aren't the solution for making transportation emission-free. That's where public transportation comes in.
Every zero-emission bus can eliminate 1,690 tons of carbon dioxide over its 12-year lifespan. This is equivalent to taking 27 cars off the road permanently.
Last year, Miami-Dade County's Department of Transportation and Public Works approved the purchase of a minimum of 75 zero-emissions, battery-electric buses. Miami-Dade County Public Schools is also converting its fleet from diesel buses to electric.
Although green efforts are in progress (SMART plan, Better Bus Project), experts say the best way to cut emissions and traffic is to make public transportation a more efficient infrastructure, a better experience, and more accessible and equitable. Miami is still a car-centric city where 80% of residents rely on personal, owned vehicles.
"Electric buses aren't going to solve emissions,” says Kevin Amézaga, with the Miami Riders Alliance. The best way to reduce emissions is to get people out of their cars, which won't happen unless the transit system is improved. Transit is the solution for many of the problems we are facing, and we can no longer afford not investing in it."