Imagine you pick up a telephone and say:

Mother Earth,
I have a question for you.

Modern life keeps nature contained to the outside. A resource at most, either for relaxation or profit. While busy keeping up, we distract ourselves from our life support systems breaking down.

We wanted to explore this division: What if you could talk directly to Mother Earth, as simple as talking on a phone? What would you ask? How would she reply? Would you discuss the experience with your friends? Connecting Indigenous perspectives with artificial intelligence (AI), we built a first prototype.

»Mother Earth, we only have a few years left to tackle the climate crisis. How can we do that?«

This project was realized within the Creative Lab #4 Zukunft Klima – Klimakommunikation mit der Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft neu denken 2022, on behalf of Kompetenzzentrum Kultur- und Kreativwirtschaft des Bundes which is a scheme by the German Cultural and Creative Industry Initiative.

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Engineering time is in high demand, we were lucky enough since my friend Mark had some to spare. On the technical side, we encountered typical road bumps: Finding a suitable distro, a powerbank troubling the Pi with voltage fluctuations, quality of the built-in audio interface. And while we found a surprisingly good Open Source voice in German, it was only male.


Acknowledging Mother Earth & Indigenous struggles

How do you create Mother Earth as a character though? AI systems need data for training and guidelines. The AI we used comes pre-trained, so we could not change its core. Which includes a fair amount of societal bias to begin with.

Guidelines however, we could provide. We decided not to go with our own interpretation of what Mother Earth is, but with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth written in 2010 as a proposal to the UN.


We asked Survival International for advice, an independent NGO supporting Indigenous communities in their struggle for equality and human rights. They introduced us to the Indigenous rights activist Llanquiray Painemal of the Mapuche people of South America. She is well connected internationally with other Indigenous groups and kindly joined our presentation and discussions.

We think the conversation around what Mother Earth is can also bring attention to very front lines of the climate crisis, since it is often Indigenous people defending healthy ecosystems. Many are killed every year, to make way for more consumption.

Fixing our twisted relation with nature requires learning from communities we often disregard as primitive: Indigenous communities have a deep understanding of and relation to Mother Earth. And our climate pledges depend on their efforts, wisdom and knowledge, says the UN. We hope to facilitate the conversation with this project a little further.



When you picked up the phone and asked »Mother Earth?« she would answer and grant you three questions. So better choose wisely!

The phone box contained a powerbank and Raspberry Pi 4B, using a Smartphone Hotspot for internet connection. We used as many Open Source components as feasable, except OpenAI GPT-3 for generating answers to your questions and Google Cloud WaveNet voices for text-to-speech, giving Mother Earth a pleasant sound.

Form & function

We wanted the experience to be as open as possible, for people not thinking much about the climate crisis or their relationship with nature. Something to stumble upon and spark curiousity. The prototype could be placed in any (unexpected) public space: On a tree in the city park, in a shopping mall or train station – a scenery we choose as a backdrop for the presentation. Our telephone wall box is portable, easy to interact with and invites you to focus on the experience while using it.

The heart-shaped earth was actually generated by a computer as well – using OpenAI DALL·E 2 and sprinkled with some stars in Photoshop.


© Photos by Rebecca Rütten

How does it work?


Text & sound examples

This is how our prototype could have answered you! We used OpenAI's text-davinci-002, which is arguably the best text generator (in 2022) publicly accessible. What you hear is a WaveNet voice from Google Cloud reading the answers out loud.

The following examples illustrate the system's amazing flexibility and ability to reframe concepts. While we chose the most interesting conversations, these are first-try answers only. Not a lot of cherry-picking!

»Mother Earth, how should we deal with the climate crisis?«

»Mother Earth, if you could give us humans some advice, what would it be?«

»Mother Earth, how can people who don't have much time or energy do anything for the climate?«

»Mother Earth, what are street blockades doing in regard to climate change?«

See more examples of conversations below. Anything "Human" writes, comes from us. Anything "Mother Earth" says, comes straight out of the computer – or a Sci-Fi movie, you might say!

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
What will happen if we do not solve the climate crisis?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
The consequences of the climate crisis will be devastating. People, animals and plants will die. Water will become scarce. There will be too many refugees. Wars will break out. Many people will starve or die of thirst.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
The climate crisis is just an invention!

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Yes, people are creative. But scientists agree: climate change is real and getting stronger.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
The problem with the climate crisis is that there are too many people on the planet.

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
The root of the problem is not the number of people, but the way they live. Most people live in a system based on exploitation, competition and inequality. Some people have too much, others too little. This system promotes greed and selfish behavior.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
What time is it?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
I am the earth, I am nature. Time is not of importance to me.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
Can you do anything about climate change?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Don't forget, I am the earth, I am nature. I will evolve, but it will affect you more than it will affect me. I am not responsible for your future. You are.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
Germany is already doing a lot against the climate crisis. Don't the other countries have to do something first?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Germany is a pioneer in many areas, but you can't expect other countries to do the same. Each country must decide for itself how much it wants to do to protect the climate. But you can all do something together: climate protection is not a competition, but a team effort.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
How are your forests, your rivers, your clouds and deserts?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Well, they are doing as you humans are doing. They are struggling. The forests are being cut down, the rivers are polluted, the clouds are polluting the air, and the deserts are expanding. The earth is sick, the people are sick, and life on earth is in danger.

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
It makes me so sad to hear this. It made me cry for a moment. Please believe me, I do my best every day for life in this wonderful world.

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Yes, I see that you people are full of love and kindness. But you are lost in your system. It is time for you to rise up and take back your power. You are the creators of your future. Be creative, be determined and act!

– HUMAN – - – – - – – - – – - - -
What would be better in your opinion: Beating the system from within with its own mechanics? Renewable energy, for example, is simply the cheapest option now. Or to turn the system upside down and fundamentally rethink many things?

– MOTHER EARTH – - – – - – – -
Both are necessary. You have to show your political leaders that there is another way of living and that you are ready to fight for your future. You must unite and raise your voices. Act now!


We are Open Source.

We want to inspire. We are curious where this idea will take you, how it might be remixed and adapted. Do you have feedback, questions, proposals? Let us know!

Full technical documentation coming soon.

Our team

Falko Saalfeld Concept & Product Design

Mark Schatz Product & Development

Hagen Plum Concept & Design
Hi. You can find my contact details here.