An interactive AR exhibit that shows us what a future rocked by climate change looks like

Photos courtesy of MARINA BAY SANDS

 

There’s one memory from my childhood that still haunts me up to this day. It was on one hot summer afternoon when my mom basically awakened my tree-hugging soul. “Ang init na ng araw,” she said. “Parang nakakapaso sa balat.” At first I thought, “Well, isn’t the sun supposed to be hot?” but looking back now, about 15 years later, I finally understand what she meant.

Climate change is an issue that has been haunting humanity probably since the day we invented machines and mass production. The consequences are more apparent now with massive wildfires and flooding happening around the world. Needless to say, we have a lot of catching up to do.

Metal straws aside, we need to take bigger steps for people — especially those in power — to pay attention. It’s a daunting task but it can be done. Take for example the Sunrise Movement, an American youth-led group that organizes protests in the US to push for The Green New Deal. They “choreograph” rallies in front of government and corporate offices to try and change the minds of big CEOs. Some members have already gotten themselves arrested and this caught the eye of US government officials like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, who in 2009 had already proposed a climate change bill. “We now have the troops. We’re ready to fight,” he says in an interview for Vox’s “Today Explained” podcast. “The difference between 2009 and today is we got our army as well.”

On the grid: “REWILD Our Planet” aims to spark conversation and inspire action among its participants after the augmented reality experience.

Another big difference from 2009 and 2019 is we have the technology to predict our future. Shot in 4K and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Our Planet is a nature documentary series that shows the beauty of the natural world and what we can do to protect it from the rapidly changing global climate. According to the documentary, wildlife population decreased by 60 percent in the last 40 years. Massive industries such as palm oil and logging have forced more wildlife to migrate, disrupting the natural ecosystem that took centuries to develop and balance. Animals now have to learn new skills just to survive, which is honestly a situation that’s not too different from what we humans are facing.

There’s one scene in the documentary where they show walruses on top of a cliff, which is their only refuge now that the ice caps are gone. It looked like a scene straight out of a very crowded music festival. You and I know how much of a hassle that is; imagine how much more for these walruses who have to go back to the ocean to hunt for food. I won’t delve into how exactly they get back down, but it’s definitely not a cliffhanger. Unlike us, animals don’t have a choice nor the power to change things, yet they’re bearing the initial brunt of climate change. We’ll feel the effects next, but the good thing is, we are completely capable of taking action.

Netflix, WWF-Singapore, Google, ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands and Phoria collaborated on “REWILD Our Planet,” an interactive exhibit that shows the effects of the changing climate to the world through an augmented reality experience. Each participant gets a Google Pixel 3 smartphone that remaps a chosen space into one of four natural landscapes: the forests of Borneo and India, the oceans of Asia, grasslands of Mongolia, and the frozen worlds of the Arctic. After choosing a location, the phone illustrates the (very real, very fast) deterioration of wildlife. “We need to not just stop, but reverse, the loss of nature,” says WWF-Singapore strategic communications and external relations chief Kim Stengert. “This will help people around the world understand that they have a shared responsibility to act and protect nature.”

Point and care: Each exhibit visitor gets a Google Pixel 3 which remaps the space into one of four natural landscapes: the forests of Borneo and India, the oceans of Asia, grasslands of Mongolia, and the frozen worlds of the Arctic.

“REWILD” emphasizes the importance of working together. Each decision you make during the experience should be undertaken as a group. You can’t choose to save the forest while the others save the arctic regions. Just like what Kim said, it’s a shared responsibility, and we’re already seeing small yet inspiring effects.

“The users of that project have so far planted over 10,000 trees in Sumatra,” says Honor Harger, executive director of ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. After the AR experience, users have the option to pledge to help spread the message across the globe. Their goal is to reach as many cities as possible. They’re planning on having a pop-up in New York and Bristol. Fingers crossed that we’ll get the experience in the Philippines as well. But before then, let’s start educating ourselves and talking about the available data. We don’t have to rally outside government offices or big corporations. Just ask a friend or your family to have an Our Planet viewing party because, at this point, the show isn’t just essential viewing because of the stunning footage; it might just be vital for our planet.

 

 

Experience “REWILD Our Planet” at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands until June 2. Entrance is free. For more information, visit www.rewild.wwf.sg or www.marinabaysands.com/museum/rewild-our-planet. You can catch Our Planet on Netflix.

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