The story of microlives: Make the future matter - today

A tool designed to find out how many hours of your life air pollution is stealing from you

We may know that environmental issues such as climate change, resource depletion and air pollution have negative effects on our health and wellbeing, but due to the long term nature of these risks, it is difficult to quantify the exact effect they have on our immediate everyday lifestyles. Microlives are one way in which this challenge of long term risk perception is communicated to show impact in the short term. It is a metaphoric measurement unit that helps people comprehend how much of their life expectancy is shortened everyday due to certain behaviours, systems or environments.

Currently a widely used indicator tool for communicating air pollution is the Air Quality Index. It groups air quality measurements on a particular day into categories such as low or high. Globally however governments have different opinions on these measurements and they vary on what a ‘good’ or ‘hazardous’ air quality measure is.

This is where Microlives may come in handy. Instead of debating on what bad or good air pollution is on a given day, Microlives give a measure of how bad or good air quality is according to its effect on our life expectancy. The Microives tool (shown below) has been developed to raise people’s awareness of how air pollution is affecting their lifespan. It calculates PM 2.5, which is a pollutant that is damaging to health as it enters into blood streams and affects our health and therefore our life expectancy. It is a great tool for interpreting air quality data into an understandable and relatable measurement, which can further makes us aware of the importance of working towards improving air quality.

Image used under Creative Commons from Lei Han.