This is Fragile Earth, an interactive photo gallery designed to teach you a little about ecology, conservation and the natural environment.
It does this by showing images with simple drag-to-view overlays. As you drag a slider across an image, you’re shown how that view has changed over time.
The views are divided into categories: Man’s Impact, Deserts and Drought, Natural Phenomena, Warming World, Water’s Power, and Wild Weather.
Inside the Wild Weather section, for example, you’ll find interactive views of the post-Katrina damage in New Orleans, or of the difference between summer and winter landscapes in the European Alps. Warming World has lots of images of retreating glaciers and ice sheets. Natural Phenomena has before-and-after pics of volcanic eruptions, disastrous floods, landslides and earthquakes.
Each view has a pull-up info sheet providing some background. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to give you some starting points for web searches if you need them. You can also favorite views, or share them on social networks.
I like the way the sliders work. In some views, you get more than one slider. I found one with three (urbanization in Dubai, since you ask). This is a great way of demonstrating change over time. It would be improved by having a visible datestamp and perhaps a distance scale on each view, though.
Another thing that could do with improvement is the quality of some of the photography. While some views are clear and detailed, others are too smudgy to be much use. An overhead shot of the effects of a landslide at Maierato in Italy in 2003 shows two blurry green images, and it’s very hard to tell what’s happening in them, unless you’re familiar with the area. You can zoom in on the images with a pinch gesture, but in some cases it just doesn’t achieve anything useful.
Fragile Earth is on sale at a special price of just one dollar until midnight this coming Saturday (April 28th). Despite the minor flaws, it remains an intriguing application, and great for armchair travellers and school-age kids everywhere.
Pro: A nice idea, educational and fascinating
Con: Needs clearer imagery, date labels, more detail