Is Virtual Reality good for the planet?
How can Virtual Reality help to tackle the Climate Crisis? Working with a new client building experiences in the Metaverse, has us asking that exact question.
Virtual reality has exploded into the modern psyche as a new frontier for communication and creativity. It came into The Plant’s collective consciousness working with Atmospheric, an inspiring business using VR to create online, immersive gatherings that you can experience from anywhere.
Their carbon emissions offset tracker particularly piqued our interest, showing the amount of carbon saved due to event goers not travelling. On a macro level this is great for the planet. But also as an individual, offsetting your carbon emissions may also help offset your carbon guilt, relaxing some of the anxieties caused by global warming.
So we started to wonder, how is VR being used to tackle climate change?
Injecting some optimism and a dose of fun is what the climate change movement needs most to recruit more of the public and generate action.
Vanessa Keith from StudioTeka, an environmental architecture and design studio, wrote the book 2100: A Dystopian Utopia/The City After Climate Change which has since been turned into a VR game. In this game the player lands in the year 2100 and is tasked with inventing ways to protect the world’s big cities from natural disasters. The beautiful visuals of this game represent an astounding vision of Eco-futurism. But what it really achieves is an answer to the “crisis of imagination” (as Vanessa puts it) which plagues us.
Too often people are pessimistic about the future but this VR game allows you to not only visualise an Eco future but have an immersive experience in which your senses are flooded by it.
Universities around the world are looking to VR as an effective tool for communicating the climate crisis.
In the West, while being the greatest contributors, climate disaster seems the furthest away. To tackle this, researchers across the globe began creating VR spaces focused on encouraging empathy for our world’s oceans. The immersive experiences often showed a pessimistic future, full of litter, decreased fish, and costal towns abandoned due to rising sea levels. Bringing into focus a fate that is inevitable unless action is taken.
Not wanting to cause too much Eco-anxiety, the virtual realities would also feature a positive future which appeared to the users as a result of impactful actions. Which leads us to…
According to leading psychologists, the best way to tackle climate anxiety is to take action. A VR experience put together by the UN Environmental Programme in collaboration with PlayStation encourages just that.
When in the virtual reality space, users see a visual representation of their carbon footprint portrayed by a large ball of gas. As you move through a daily routine, your carbon footprint suggests actions you can take to decrease your environmental impact. This includes changes like choosing a seasonal breakfast or taking the train.
Spending time in the virtual world reducing your carbon footprint encourages people to make the same changes in the real world, and as Greta Thunberg says, “No one is too small to make a difference”.
In their own way, each VR project mentioned here encourages empathy, action, and imagination. They are able to achieve this due to the immersive nature of virtual reality technology, which allows you to fully experience the scary realities of our future if humanity doesn’t change its path but also instils hope, an element which is often missing when discussing climate change.