There were three main themes to the beyond scarcity hackathon: alternative narratives, making the invisible visible, and internalities (internalizing costs, to counter the economic concept of externalities). Swapna and I wanted to continue to explore the idea of human-plant mutualism, and teamed up with Viniyata, Andy, and Lola to create a project in a similar vein as our final.
We combined the story of the Alley Pond Giant, a large tulip tree in Queens and probably the oldest living organism in New York City, with the idea that the natural environment provides humans with priceless services that we devalue for immediate economic gain. Tulip trees happen to be one of the most efficient plants in converting CO2 into oxygen. We wanted to create an experience to prompt people to think about the conversion of the CO2 we release as humans with this work that trees are constantly doing for us.
Our final project allowed people to visualize the volume of oxygen released in an hour (our non-exact estimate as non-botanists for a tulip tree of this size is about 1 liter). When you pay a quarter, a small amount of air is released from the balloon. We did some calculations to estimate how much CO2 a tree like the Alley Pond Giant converts into oxygen on a yearly and daily basis, but we couldn’t get the volume of the balloon or the amount released exact with the hackathon’s time constraints.
Still, we hope it’s a fun and thought-provoking way to think about the carbon sequestration trees do for us, and the important role they play in giving us air to breathe! Unfortunately, this kind of monetary quantification of natural resources is one of the only ways to get the capitalist regimes of the world to understand this immense value. Our project also seems relevant given the advent of bottled air.