November 22 – 23, 2019
Environmental Storytelling & Virtual Reality will explore environmental research and virtual reality (VR) across two days of talks, film screenings, workshops and a live multimedia performance for students, faculty, and staff at Penn and beyond.
The festival is organized around three keywords that illuminate the connections between interdisciplinary environmental research and virtual reality technologies and experiences: empathy, education, and action on climate. As authors of the October 2018 IPCC Special Report have urged, action on climate must come now, from individuals and institutions across sectors and across languages and borders. The forecast of 1.5 degree surface warming already by 2040, as dire as it is realistic, points to the need to wrench down greenhouse gas emissions to slow the current acceleration of ongoing climate change. It also hints at the creative and imaginative combinations of scientists, humanists, artists, and environmental and public health advocates that we can bring together to nurture, in the language of the IPCC report, “the wide scale behavior changes consistent with adapting to and limiting global warming to 1.5 C.” The IPCC report also suggests the role of emotion. Taking action on climate depends centrally on empathy. And, if that empathy is to make positive environmental impacts, it needs education. Touted in headlines as “the ultimate empathy machine,” virtual reality holds great promise as an educational tool, but remains largely untested. In this gathering of scientists, artists, educators, and the interested public, we want to put this claim to the test to see how VR and immersive storytelling might catalyze action on climate.
The event’s invited guests work at the forefront of VR, AR, and game design in educational institutions, in media and journalism, and in informal community spaces promoting public health, environmental literacy, and climate solutions.
Support for Environmental Storytelling & Virtual Reality comes from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities and the Cinema Studies Program at Penn.