Immersive storytelling will have you looking at environmental issues in an impactful new way.

2019 will be an important year for Earth Day. Climate change, ocean pollution, and animal extinction are rising at a rapid pace. Planet Earth is in big trouble, and it needs powerful and innovative ways to spread environmental awareness to educate and empower people all over the globe.

Earthx2019 Expo – the world’s largest Earth Day celebration – held in Dallas, TX between April 26 and April 28, will have over 40 immersive experiences as part of their EarthxInteractive portion of the festival , including AR and VR experiences created to educate audiences, raise awareness, and drive positive impact and lasting change on our environmental issues.

Organizers of the massive Earth Day event have curated a fantastic collection of educational experiences that will take you on a wild immersive journey all around the world. You will find yourself swimming with dolphins, rescuing turtles, exploring remote islands, and traveling through Africa to defend wildlife – all through the power of AR, VR, and MR technology.

EarthxInteractive will also use other forms of creative technology such as interactive walls, virtual visualization, and immersive viewing platforms in hopes of educating you on what is happening to our planet by delivering a memorable punch right to your empathy zone.

VR is a powerful empathy tool that has been proven through research to effectively expose users to new perspectives and impact future decision-making. Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab talked about this in a 2016 TedTalk where he discussed his research on how VR could help create empathy around climate change and how immersive technology can actually change behavior.

In a study conducted by Bailenson, he took 3 different groups and educated them on how paper was made.  Group one was exposed to VR experiences where they went through the motions of cutting down trees via chainsaws, and then slowly watched as the forest shrank before their own eyes. Group two watched a film on the process, and group three read a paper.  Afterwards, all three groups expressed a desire to use less paper. However, Bailenson and his team followed the groups for months after the study and found that the group who used VR were the ones most effected by the study, using 20% less paper over that perdiod of time following the experiment.

There is real scientific evidence that proves Earth needs our help. The planet’s average surface temperature has been rising since the late 19th century; oceans have been absorbing an increased amount of heat, warming more than 0.4 degree Fahrenheit since 1969. Shrinking ice sheets, decreased snow cover, extreme weather events, the list of evidence goes on.

Through immersive experiences, the Earthx2019 festival hopes to inspire the population to take more drastic steps towards the prevention of global warming. To do this, they’ll use VR and AR to take you to the front lines of global activism; this includes everything from protecting endangered species and ecosystems, joining anti-poaching efforts to end whale hunts, exploring outer space with NASA, rescuing a baby elephant, helping with ocean cleanups, and so much more.

Michael Cain, President and Founder of EarthXFilm, said in a promotional video, “We wanted to create a festival that goes head on and takes place in many forms. We not only wanted to create awareness, we wanted to create an impact.”

A touching scene from My Africa / Image Credit: Passion Planet, Vision3

Earthx2019 takes place April 26 – 28 and also includes the EarthxAutoShow, EarthxTaste, a Solar Car Challenge, Tiny House Exhibit, and a slew of other expos you can experience or participate in, each designed to teach you how to make a big difference in helping the planet.

If you can’t make it to Earthx2019, there are plenty of other ways you can make a difference.  AJ Schneller, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at Skidmore College, suggests that you act locally within your own community. “While VR can be used educationally to highlight faraway exotic locals and promote the protection of endangered charismatic megafauna, we should also use place based education to inspire a love of nearby nature,” adding, addressing climate change might help protect/recover wonderful ecological gems, but it shouldn’t divert them from acting locally, and being civically engaged, or perceiving where they live as ordinary.”

Tickets for the three-day Earthx2019 Expo are available now.

Earth Day happens each year on April 22nd.

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