London, Tokyo Submerged by Rising Seas -- In "Second Life"

April 4, 2007

Part of the Digital Places Special News Series
More Digital Places Stories>>

Tokyo, Amsterdam, and the entire Mediterranean island of Ibiza were inundated with floodwaters today due to rising sea levels brought on by global warming.

Or at least, that would have been the headline if events in the virtual world Second Life mirrored reality.

A rolling flood temporarily swamped several areas of the online world as part of a campaign to illustrate the potential environmental and financial impacts of climate change.

"Our message was, You may have a second life, but [you still need to] offset your second life in real life," said David de Rothschild, a London-based environmentalist and adventurer whose nonprofit Adventure Ecology helped stage today's flood.

De Rothschild, who is also a National Geographic Society emerging explorer, noted that because of the computer equipment required to power Second Life, people's online personas, or avatars, consume as much energy as the average real-world Brazilian.

(National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)

Soggy Avatars?

Unlike traditional online games, Second Life is a virtual environment where avatars can buy "land" to build artificial neighborhoods, start businesses, or hold events.

(Related: "Second Life," Other Virtual Worlds Reshaping Human Interaction" [October 17, 2006].)

More than 5.2 million people inhabit the online world. At any one time between 20,000 and 25,000 "residents" are online.

"Basically you go and create your own character, your own life. You can do what you want," de Rothschild said.

Continued on Next Page >>


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