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Using a 3D interactive model of the ‘IPAT’ equation to communicate what can drive environment risks

Using a 3D interactive model of the ‘IPAT’ equation to communicate what can drive environment risks
Using a 3D interactive model of the ‘IPAT’ equation to communicate what can drive environment risks
The natural environment currently faces a wide range of substantial risks (e.g., climate change, plastic pollution, ecosystem collapse, ocean acidification) to its normal functionality, and many of these risks have been attributed to anthropogenic activities. Therefore, it is important that the public have some understanding of the fundamental dynamics that drive such activities and which can magnify the impact of these activities to such a scale that human extinction is now considered to be one viable consequence (Bostrom, 2013). One model that attempts to illustrate these fundamental dynamics is the ‘IPAT’ equation (Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology).

Originally developed in the 1970s, the IPAT equation suggests that the recent and projected increases in human numbers, technologies and personal wealth all interact to the detriment of natural environment. Hence, IPAT provides one credible medium for communicating to individuals some of the fundamental and dynamic factors that interact to drive environmental risks. However, as a risk communication format, the IPAT equation would probably lack intrinsic appeal to many people and might be perceived as somewhat abstract and esoteric. To overcome this problem, we created a 3D desktop-sized model of the IPAT equation that can be viewed and manipulated easily by individuals of all ages and abilities. By manipulating the model, individuals can obtain a simplified and quantitative visual representation of the extent to which environmental risks can change over time (past, present and future) as a function of global variations in population levels, technological developments and average personal affluence.

Based on data gathered in both controlled conditions and a naturalistic context, participants who interacted with the 3D IPAT model reported that it (i) was an engaging and informative medium (ii) increased their concerns about humanity’s impact on the environment (iii) increased their willingness to engage in actions to limit humanity’s impact on the environment and (iv) helped them to understand how population, technology and affluence might all interact to have an adverse impact on the natural environment.

Consistent with the extant literature on metaphorical models (see Morecroft, 2012), these findings show that the 3D IPAT model was sufficiently plausible and understandable to allow individuals to make inductive inferences about the real world and, specifically, to appreciate what anthropogenic factors may be fundamental drivers of environmental risks. This highlights how interactive 3D risk communication formats could be effective at helping the public to understand complex and abstract risk-related issues.
Risk communication, Population dynamics, Interactive models, Technological innovation, Wealth flows, Environmental impacts
Dawson, Ian
dff1b440-6c83-4354-92b6-04809460b01a
Zhang, Danni
c81a5801-9c21-4c27-a340-45874b5274f9
Dawson, Ian
dff1b440-6c83-4354-92b6-04809460b01a
Zhang, Danni
c81a5801-9c21-4c27-a340-45874b5274f9

Dawson, Ian and Zhang, Danni (2021) Using a 3D interactive model of the ‘IPAT’ equation to communicate what can drive environment risks. The 29th Annual Conference of the Society for Risk Analysis - Europe, Espoo, Finland., Aalto University, Espoo, Finland. 14 - 16 Jun 2021.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Abstract

The natural environment currently faces a wide range of substantial risks (e.g., climate change, plastic pollution, ecosystem collapse, ocean acidification) to its normal functionality, and many of these risks have been attributed to anthropogenic activities. Therefore, it is important that the public have some understanding of the fundamental dynamics that drive such activities and which can magnify the impact of these activities to such a scale that human extinction is now considered to be one viable consequence (Bostrom, 2013). One model that attempts to illustrate these fundamental dynamics is the ‘IPAT’ equation (Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology).

Originally developed in the 1970s, the IPAT equation suggests that the recent and projected increases in human numbers, technologies and personal wealth all interact to the detriment of natural environment. Hence, IPAT provides one credible medium for communicating to individuals some of the fundamental and dynamic factors that interact to drive environmental risks. However, as a risk communication format, the IPAT equation would probably lack intrinsic appeal to many people and might be perceived as somewhat abstract and esoteric. To overcome this problem, we created a 3D desktop-sized model of the IPAT equation that can be viewed and manipulated easily by individuals of all ages and abilities. By manipulating the model, individuals can obtain a simplified and quantitative visual representation of the extent to which environmental risks can change over time (past, present and future) as a function of global variations in population levels, technological developments and average personal affluence.

Based on data gathered in both controlled conditions and a naturalistic context, participants who interacted with the 3D IPAT model reported that it (i) was an engaging and informative medium (ii) increased their concerns about humanity’s impact on the environment (iii) increased their willingness to engage in actions to limit humanity’s impact on the environment and (iv) helped them to understand how population, technology and affluence might all interact to have an adverse impact on the natural environment.

Consistent with the extant literature on metaphorical models (see Morecroft, 2012), these findings show that the 3D IPAT model was sufficiently plausible and understandable to allow individuals to make inductive inferences about the real world and, specifically, to appreciate what anthropogenic factors may be fundamental drivers of environmental risks. This highlights how interactive 3D risk communication formats could be effective at helping the public to understand complex and abstract risk-related issues.

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More information

Published date: 15 June 2021
Venue - Dates: The 29th Annual Conference of the Society for Risk Analysis - Europe, Espoo, Finland., Aalto University, Espoo, Finland, 2021-06-14 - 2021-06-16
Keywords: Risk communication, Population dynamics, Interactive models, Technological innovation, Wealth flows, Environmental impacts

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 450009
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/450009
PURE UUID: 296195bd-cfe8-44e4-b38f-6c05e77531dd
ORCID for Ian Dawson: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0555-9682

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 05 Jul 2021 16:30
Last modified: 13 Dec 2021 03:07

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