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Celebrities Raising Awareness for Environmental Issues Through Virtual Media

How do video games and virtual reality play into climate change action? Ask Grammy award-winning producer and musician Pharrell Williams and Oscar-winning actor and singer Jared Leto, who are trying to engage people and raise awareness through virtual media.

Battle for Big Blue is a new, free-to-play mobile game inspired by RAW for the Oceans, an ongoing project between denim brand G-Star RAW, Williams’ Bionic Yarn — which turns ocean plastic into yarn — and Parley for the Oceans. The partnership has created a clothing line co-designed by Pharrell using Bionic Yarn in men’s and women’s clothing. The app includes an image of the step-by-step process of developing bionic yarn and creating the G-Start RAW denim collection, and features catchy techno sounds by Pharrell that complement its minimalist design.

RAW for the Oceans says it hopes to engage people in a different way with Battle for Big Blue. The game is “a nautical journey collecting ocean plastic,” that is meant to be both fun and educational, raising awareness of the plastic pollution problem in our oceans. Players navigate 5 oceans as a rather adorable octopus, collecting plastic bottles for points and trying to avoid sea creatures who block your path or swim at you. They can challenge their friends using Facebook Connect and even “play against Pharrell,” which adds another octopus on the screen for you to compete against. Facts on the plastic pollution problem are displayed on the screen between levels.


Meanwhile, the Sierra Club, the Environmental Media Association (EMA), and RYOT launched the first-ever climate change-focused virtual reality experience. Narrated by Jared Leto, the immersive film allows viewers to explore frontline communities in Alaska, see melting glaciers, and experience the effects of climate change using the RYOT-VR mobile app, Facebook 360, and YouTube 360.

“To us, this is by far the most exciting use case for virtual reality technology,” said Molly Swenson, COO of RYOT and an executive producer of the film. “When you’re standing in the middle of a glacial ice cave, watching and hearing it melt rapidly from the inside out, you not only understand that climate change is real, but you feel compelled to do everything you can to halt and reverse it. VR is the best tool we’ve found for turning passive viewers into active participants.”

EMA’s Director of Business Development, K. Asher Levin, called it “the perfect project to reach people that may not grasp the true impact climate change has had on our glaciers.”

The creators are hoping the video will help increase the pressure on world leaders to take meaningful action on climate, starting with COP21, the upcoming UN negotiations in Paris.

“I hope world leaders recognize that people around the globe want and need them to step up and work together starting at the UN Climate Summit and beyond, to fight the climate crisis. Humanity depends on it,” Leto said.

“The climate negotiations present a unique opportunity to take on the climate crisis and take action for a strong and just clean energy economy,” said Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director. “As the momentum has continued to accelerate toward this moment, we’ve seen unprecedented climate action from not only the world’s biggest economies but the grassroots activists who are driving the change. Supporters from the entertainment industry like Jared Leto are stepping up to help show that this is not just a political issue, it's a cultural and humanitarian issue. We need people everywhere around the globe to join the movement and call on their leaders to Act in Paris and beyond.”

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