SANTA MONICA—The virtual reality Owl will be the city of Santa Monica’s first use of virtual reality to help community members understand the impacts of climate change on Southern California, according to a press release from the city of Santa Monica. The Owl viewfinders, named after their manufacturer Owlized Inc., have been installed at the Santa Monica Pier and will be open to the public from Thursday, September 8 to November 7.
“Sea level rise is a slow moving crisis that’s hard to see, and harder to get people energized around, but this technology will help bring it home in a very tangible way,” said Dean Kubani, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Santa Monica. “Seeing firsthand how the change will impact us will be a very powerful experience for all of our beach lovers.”
This new engagement tool will allow visitors to view an immersive virtual reality display of Santa Monica Beach. In a panoramic view, visitors will see how the beach and infrastructure will flood due to the rising of the sea level along with large coastal storms. The Owl viewfinders will also inform visitors of potential solutions that are being considered by the city of Santa Monica.
According to research conducted by Santa Monica’s project partners USC Sea Grant and the U.S. Geological Services, the sea level could rise 5-24 inches by 2050 and 17-66 inches by 2100. The increase in the sea level will cause the water line to move up the beach causing permanent erosion to the beach. The day to day effects could be mild, but the further inland tide line could mean more of an impact from major coastal storms.
“From Malibu to the Port, sea level rise will impact local communities differently,” said Elizabeth Bar-El, City of Santa Monica Senior Planner. “Future scenarios are informed by complex modeling, which are then incorporated into local plans to reflect the reality of climate change. It is very important to reach out in creative ways to help the community understand what it all means.”
Bar-El is also the project manager for the Local Coastal Program which incorporates future sea level rise into coastal zoning. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan will develop measures to adapt the risks and hazards that pose a threat to existing buildings and infrastructure.
The Owl viewfinders will be available to the public 24/7 and include an interactive feature that allows visitors to share their opinions. A launch event will take place on September 19 at 9 a.m. with Santa Monica officials and partners. The Owl viewfinders will be located on the north side of the Santa Monica Pier, west of the Bubba Gump Restaurant. One viewfinder is universally accessible.
Canyon News emailed Constance Farrell, Public Information Coordinator for the city of Santa Monica, for more information, but did not receive comment before print. For more information on the Owl viewfinders and Santa Monica’s efforts towards climate change, visit http://www.sustainablesm.org/climate.