Media coverage on global climate change is constant, necessary, yet overwhelming. We see scientific facts reported on television; we experience the increasingly odd and drastic seasonal weather changes. But, some individuals are experiencing news fatigue to the point of desensitization. Now, we can “see” and “live” climate change in virtual reality (VR). Al Gore’s Melting Ice, a virtual immersive experience, documents the devastating consequences of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet. The film debuted this past weekend on Day 1 of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival as a next-level companion piece to An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, a follow-up to the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth.
The Melting Ice screening at this year’s Sundance Film Festival is a part of the New Frontiers, a festival program dedicated to environmental conservation cinematic pieces. New Frontiers is the first time Festival programmers have focused efforts to highlight a social cause. Unsurprisingly, VR is changing documentary filmmaking. “Through Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and various crafted immersive experiences, New Frontier this year challenges the very nature of perception and what we consider to be ‘reality,’” said New Frontiers Senior Programmer and Chief Curator Shari Frilot. (Source) Frilot’s insights bode well for how VR may change thinking and reactive behavior to the reality of climate change.
While reviewers’ takes on Melting Ice are still rolling out, the project will impact perceptions of climate change by offering a first-hand context. Recent studies at Stanford University offer an indication that VR experiences make us more empathetic by simulating unfamiliar surroundings. Soon, skeptics and non-skeptics will be able to don a pair of goggles, visit Greenland, and see climate change–without leaving a coffee shop. The sights of glaciers melting and waters rising will make it more difficult for the arguments of naysayers.
The details regarding the mass-release of Melting Ice are developing at the moment. VR is being leveraged as a tool to spotlight a global topic riddled in skepticism. If you are not convinced, the film may change your viewpoint. Get your goggles ready.