Your Life on Earth

BBC Earth

At a glance

Discover just how much the world has changed since you were born in our personalised interactive for BBC Earth.

series of modules showing different data visualizations about how the world has changed

Inspired by Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough’s TV series Life Story gave audiences an extraordinary new look at the adventure that unites us and every animal on the planet: the journey through life on Earth.

To help promote and celebrate Life Story, BBC Earth asked us to create a data visualization that would fill people with awe and wonder about the natural world.

As part of this, they also wanted us to wake audiences up to the realities of climate change.

This time it's personal

Our planet may have been around for 4.5 billion years, but it has undergone seismic changes within a single human lifetime.

We wanted to use data as our fuel to tell some of the stories of each person’s individual life on Earth. This personalised visualization would show every user exactly how much the Earth has changed during their lives.

We scoured the web for time-spanning data from the likes of NASA, National Geographic and the World Wide Fund for Nature. To help make the piece super-shareable, we personalised a range of associated tweets too.

data visualization showing a humans heartbeat compared to a hummingbird's heart beat
series of modules showing different data visualizations about how we have changed the world

Natural balance

One editorial challenge was to strike the right balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ stories of global change.

There have been many signs of positive change, such as the shrinking of the hole in the ozone layer. But we knew from the start that not all the stats would be feel-good.

From the rise of global temperatures and sea levels to the shocking loss of arctic sea ice and rainforests, this was an opportunity to present oft-repeated (and ignored) statistics in a powerful, personalised form.

 

series of modules showing different data visualizations about how you have changed

A life less ordinary

Still, our favourite stories in Your Life on Earth are the most curious and unexpected.

How high trees would have grown in your lifetime, for example. How far tectonic plates have shifted. Or how old you’d be on other planets.

We wanted to tap into everyone’s fascination with the extraordinary journey of being alive on a living planet.

 

Simply visual

Across this weird, wonderful variety of subjects, we used simple chart types to visualise the data so it could be understood by everyone.

Your life on Earth icons

Photo/graphic mix

The easy-to-read nature of these data visualization devices enabled us to show change over time or put the data in context wherever possible. We illustrated the charts with photography and graphic icons for an appealing visual mix.

sketches showing data visualization exploration for your life on Earth
sketches showing data visualization exploration for your life on Earth

Storytelling that clicks

How could we bring volcanoes, supermoons and mountain gorillas together into a coherent story? We decided to take a ‘modular’ approach to our storytelling, much like a newspaper.

Each story is its own modular unit, which, when combined, come together as individual parts of broader themes: how you’ve changed, how the world has changed and how humans have changed the world.

These modules also allowed people to view the piece easily on mobile and to share any story they particularly loved.

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