VR Can Help Save Polar Bears, And The Rainforest

VR Can Help Save Polar Bears, And The Rainforest
April 2, 2017

I worry that humanity isn’t getting enough direct contact with the wild and we’ll all end up with Nature Deficit Disorder. Plus, how can you protect what you don’t love and haven’t experienced?


Greenpeace has been encouraging us to bear witness for more than 40 years. In the past this meant telexes sent from the ship Rainbow Warrior; now it means virtual reality (VR).


A rainforest-themed headset (greenpeace.org/virtualexplorer, £6) arrived through my letterbox in a surprisingly low-key box. The cardboard innards popped up into a headset, then I downloaded the Greenpeace Virtual Explorer app (available for both Apple iOS and Android) and within minutes I was tramping across the Arctic viewing polar bears, then swinging across the canopy of the Brazilian rainforest.


There is something thrilling about looking a polar bear in the eye. It made me want to kick back extra hard against Russian plans to drill the eastern Arctic, to take that next step, sign the petition or help fund further action.


With Munduruku (Greenpeace’s next VR film, out soon) the hope is to swell opposition to the Brazilian government’s massive complex of hydro-electric dams, planned for the Tapajós basin, as we experience these ancestral lands through the eyes of the Munduruku people who will be flooded out.


Director Chris Milk is a VR pioneer. His films include Millions March, protesting against police brutality and Clouds over Sidra, which puts you next to a 12-year-old Syrian refugee. Milk says VR allows you to “connect on a real human level, regardless of where you are in the world”. Clouds over Sidra is credited with attracting an extra $1bn in funding. So beware: VR will find your empathy button.

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