By Maggie Dewane, EIA Press Officer
Last fall when I met with tech pros who boasted about the coming boom of virtual reality, or VR, I skeptically assumed it would be another piece of trendy, flashy technology, limited in its actual use and distribution. Fast forward a few months and I’ve just had my first VR experience and couldn’t be more shocked and impressed. With the aid of technology, I was transported into the jungles of Guatemala with Jesse Carmichael of Maroon 5, entering a world I might not have otherwise known.
Jesse and his band-mate James Valentine, along with Adam Gardner of the band Guster, traveled to remote regions of Guatemala with the Environmental Investigation Agency and the nonprofit Reverb, to learn about the devastating impacts of illegal logging and how communities are well placed to sustainably manage the forests for generations to come.
While traversing the jungle with community leaders and forest managers, Jesse filmed his experience with a unique 360⁰ rig, comprised of six GoPro cameras filming in every direction. The idea was to bring his personal experience back home and share it with friends and fans, so that they too could see what’s happening to our world’s forests. Jesse worked with his friends at RYOT, a multimedia organization focused on cause-based action, to carefully stitch together the videos from the 360⁰ rig. Then they could upload the video to a number of platforms capable of 360⁰ and VR viewing like YouTube, Google, and Facebook, which have different modes that detect when you’re viewing a video that’s been filmed in a 360⁰ perspective.*
Watching Jesse’s video exclusively on RYOT’s own app, I took in the breathtaking views, ancient Mayan ruins, and sounds of distant voices, both human and wildlife.
“The jungle is the provider of resources that enrich our lives,” says Jesse. He’s referring to the precious woods that are being felled for consumer products—everything from tables, toys and tools, to the guitars that he and countless other musicians use in their music. Unfortunately, these products are often made from wood harvested illegally or unsustainably. Forests around the world are being stolen, bringing devastation to wildlife as well as indigenous and local communities while undercutting legal operators. This wood then enters the market as everyday products made for unwitting buyers.
“It’s up to each of us to educate ourselves and shop responsibly,” continues Jesse. “Lumber cut from the forest isn’t just a commercial product, but an integral member of [the] community.”
Experiencing Jesse’s trip, as if I was there to also witness firsthand the effects of illegal logging and the positive impacts of community forest management, gives such a unique perspective to this global issue. This new 360⁰ and VR technology is a new way for viewers to become exposed to critically important issues like this one. Fortunately, musicians like Jesse, James, and Adam are at the forefront of the illegal logging crisis, using their voices to educate, so that we may all make choices that help create a more sustainable and just world.
*An immersive, complete 360⁰ or VR experience is best viewed on a smartphone or a VR headset. The two mediums are different and still growing in quality.
Check out RYOT’s video below: