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Immersive Docu-Series Lets You 'See' Climate Change in Virtual Reality

In last year's virtual reality (VR) film Melting Ice, viewers traveled with former Vice President and An Inconvenient Truth star Al Gore on a trip to Greenland to "see" and "experience" ice sheets diminishing, glaciers collapsing and melting ice becoming raging rivers.

Now, and just in time for Earth Day 2018, directors Danfung Dennis and Eric Strauss have released three more, 10-minute immersive episodes in their This is Climate Change docu-series. Fire, Feast and Famine shows the powerful reality of global climate change, from California's burning blazes to drought-ridden Somalia—and you don't even need to leave your couch.


"Climate change isn't a new problem, and certainly not a new documentary subject, but we think it may require a new medium to make this vital, headline-deficient topic powerfully real for audiences," the directors said in a joint statement.

"That was the impetus behind This Is Climate Change: to use the unprecedented sensorial richness of virtual reality to show the very tangible effects of rising temperatures on a wide variety of ecosystems."

Here is a synopsis of each film:

  • MELTING ICE transports viewers instantly to the glacial ice sheets of Greenland with climate change leader and former Vice President Al Gore to witness with him gargantuan glaciers collapsing into crystalline blue waters, icebergs dramatically calving into colossal chunks, and ice thawing at breakneck speed to become roaring rivers—all building to a thought-provoking climax: a "sunny day" Florida flood on the other side of the world, triggered by heightening sea levels.
  • FIRE drops you into the rapid-response lives of the brave firefighters who are sent to battle a drier and drier California and its ever-worsening yearly wildfires. Here, you will also witness helicopter dispatches that show raging blazes across vast terrain, strategic drops of water and retardant from dizzying heights, dangerous ridges where brush must be cleared, and the aftermath of charred ruins that are all that's left of entire neighborhoods.
  • FEAST soars over Brazil's increasingly threatened rainforest to witness majestic trees felled by loggers working illegally, then takes viewers straight into the heart of an outlaw logging operation and inside one of the many enormous cattle farms that are now the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon. As viewers see up close how cows are raised for food, the question becomes: Is an insatiable demand for beef going to wipe out the rainforest?
  • FAMINE transports audiences directly into the arid expanse of Somalia, where crushing drought caused by rising temperatures has made once-fertile lands a year-round desert, and is putting a generation of malnourished children in danger as a result. Up close at a crowded refugee camp, where water must be delivered daily, and in an overworked hospital, we see the region's most vulnerable people endure unimaginable suffering.

The VR series doesn't just bring awareness to audiences about the devastating effects of climate change, it calls on them to take action.

"One of the greatest strengths of VR is that it can cultivate an awareness of oneself, and we hope This is Climate Change shakes viewers from their indifference towards this subject by giving them something more immediate than just 2D information," the directors said.

"Whether it's a crumbling ice sheet above you, smoldering destruction all around you, a frightened cow in a kill chute below you, or a malnourished child in front of you, the immersive, 'you-are-there' effect of this groundbreaking medium is a powerful tool that brings us all closer to this ongoing tragedy."

This is Climate Change will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in its VR theater and will stream on the Within VR app (available on iOS, Android and all major VR headsets) on April 21.

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