- Fiji, Pacific Islands
- 3.5kdelegates at COP23
While climate change can often seem an abstract concept defined by facts and statistics, communities across the Pacific Islands are feeling the very real impacts of this global threat every day. Created with the World Bank for COP23, Our Home, Our People uses the intimacy and immersion of 360° virtual reality and interactive websites to allow people all over the world to experience first-hand the intimate, personal stories of those whose lives are being transformed by climate change.Experience the project
When we started working with the World Bank in the lead up to the COP23 Conference, the goal was to bring delegates in wintery Germany – and indeed the global community – into the very heart of Fiji to experience the effects of climate change on the Pacific Islands region.
While the threat of climate change has been well documented, facts and figures often don’t reach people on an emotional level. To do that, we would need a different, more human approach. The idea was to create a multi-platform awareness campaign to tell intimate, personal stories that would give audiences a first-hand experience of not just the destruction of climate change, but the resilience of the Fijian people.
The statistics paint a sober picture – sea levels across the Pacific could rise up to 18cm by 2030, and already 30% of Fijians live in areas that are at high risk of extreme weather events. Yet that picture is also abstract. What do the numbers really mean? How do they translate to the people’s everyday lives? We needed to know the reality on the ground before we’d be able to tell a story that could really connect with people.
Finding those stories brought its own unique set of challenges. First was the two flights and long bus ride to the Fijian communities on the frontline. Then there was navigating weather, identifying the right people to guide us, finding the stories we wanted to tell and gaining the trust of the people telling them. This trust was perhaps the most crucial part. After all, the goal was not to tell our own story, but to help the people of Fiji tell theirs.
Through the research process, we decided to use Our Home, Our People to explore the issue of climate change through the intimate, personal stories of four people across Fiji. Doing so would help us examine the different ways that climate change is impacting communities across the Pacific. It would also allow us to accurately capture the resilience and determination of the Pacific people as they respond to this crisis.
With the intimacy and immersion of 360° virtual reality, these stories became an empathetic call to action. Through them, audiences would be able to more intimately understand the very human cost of climate change. In this way, the film urged COP23 delegates and the global community to support these islands that have done little to cause climate change but will experience the brunt of its impact.
Throughout Our Home, Our People, we present each story through a unique character’s point of view, placing audiences firmly in the centre of the action. Take, for example, one everyday scene with community leader Rai and his children. Seeing a low-hanging branch ahead, Rai calls back for you to watch out. Except the ‘you’ isn’t the audience, it’s his children, sitting directly behind.
Meanwhile, towards the end of the film, we take advantage of the unique ability of virtual reality to truly break the fourth wall between character and audience. In doing so, we capture the intimacy of the medium to make Fiji’s climate change story stand out as something we can all understand: the idea of home, and what it might mean to lose it.
As with all of our virtual reality projects, the goal in creating Our Home, Our People was to produce as immersive an experience as possible. In order to do that, we relied on a wide range of creative technology and video production techniques to get us across the line.
For the visuals, we used the newly released Insta360 Pro to capture 8K, 360° footage of our characters and their environments. Capturing this kind of high-resolution footage would ensure we were able to create a virtual environment that felt real for audiences. We then paired this with spatial audio from an H2N microphone setup, with the ability to switch between and merge two sound inputs.
The camera itself wasn’t important, what was important was how the camera could make the audience feel.
With high-fidelity visuals and audio able to follow the audience’s head movements, we could create a more realistic virtual reality experience. This was crucial in creating a more immersive, emotional experience – one in which the depth of the story was conveyed through both the visuals and the sound.
To date, the Our Home, Our People virtual reality documentary has been watched by more than 600,000 people online or in person at events around the world, including the COP23 meetings in Bonn, Germany. It’s also been shown at a range of international film festivals, and been named an innovation finalist in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Awards.
At the end of the day, our goal with Our Home, Our People was to start a conversation. We wanted to bring people all over the world to Fiji where they could bear witness to the devastating impact of climate change and the resilience of the communities facing it. And we wanted to inspire leaders the world over to act on the issue.
The film conveyed the message that we have long aimed to share: we Fijians are not standing still and accepting the realities of climate change; rather that we are resilient.
Our Home, Our People has been seen by world leaders with the power to influence climate change policy and investment. It has also returned home to Fiji where the communities whose stories it tells have been able to not only see the final film, but hear of their impact on the world stage