Quite a few people discussing designer Jin Kim’s concept for an Earth Mirror have associated it with guilt. Why? Because the mirror reports on your hourly, daily, and monthly water usage, going so far as to incorporate icons meant to support H2O conservation. The four symbols are lit by LEDs and feature Green and Orange Mountain, Fetching Water Buckets by African Child, Polar Bears in Peace, and Polar Bears in Danger. The mountains change from orange to green depending on whether your water usage is “well balanced or devastated by overspending.”
Earth Mirror. Designed by Jin Kim.
The African child icon depicts how many times the child would have to walk 10 km per day to fetch a pail of water. Polar Bears in Peace shows the lovely creatures walking safely on a big block of ice, while Polar Bears in Danger shows them walking dangerously on a melting iceberg. As an adult, I too find the mirror somewhat too forceful, but I think the Earth Mirror by Jin Kim has great applications for children—especially in schools and science museums.
Since it works on a color- and icon-based system, the mirror would give children an immediately clear indication of how their daily water use translates across the globe. Having the “good” polar bears pop up would be a great incentive for them to conserve water. The colors in the mirror also read water levels: blue bars indicate hourly usage level, green bars indicate daily usage level, and orange dots indicate monthly usage level. All the colors darken as the water use increases, so a mirror surrounded by dark bands of blue and green would translate as “bad.” This system might have a real impact on younger people—and that might then extend to adult behavioral patterns. Parents would see how much water running turns the mirror dark blue and adjust their own use based on their child’s reactions to Kim’s Earth Mirror. I don’t have enough training to know what age groups this mirror might best serve, but trained child therapists could answer that question. Being raised Catholic, I was already steeped in guilt, so the Earth Mirror might have thrown me over the edge, but more well-adapted children could benefit greatly, and actually change their world. The mirror’s shape also mirrors the globe—another effective touch.