THE RISE OF DIGITAL CONSERVATIONISM

by: Katarina Petakova

Flourishing “natural” environments found online.

“IF WE FORGET OUR ROLE IN NATURE, IT’S INEVITABLE WE’LL MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES.”

Biodiversity losses memorialized in the Neurasphere. The Online Conservation Federation is dedicated to providing enthralling natural landscapes pre-industrialization.

Though the production of carbon emissions has been curbed, the damage done to the environment over the course of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries cannot be reversed. Loss of biodiversity has been a problem across the globe, and inaccessibility to nature will be an ongoing problem for future generations, experts say.

“We, as human beings, have a much more intimate relationship with nature and the environment than typically assumed.” Says Angela Beauford, founder and president of the Online Conservation Federation, a not-for-profit dedicated to bridging the gap between people and the natural world: “If we forget our role in nature, it’s inevitable that we’ll make the same mistakes our great-grandparents made.”

In an effort to remind people and children of the environment and humankind’s place in it, the OCF has begun the monumental task of accurately recreating landscapes with flourishing biomes as they were found before industrialization, hosted within the Neurasphere. In exchange for a small donation to the OCF, participants will gain access to the OCF servers and a variety of habitats to explore. “Through exploration and informative popups, we can educate our kids and ourselves on the impact we as humans have had and can have on the world around us,” Beauford explains, “this project is meant to elicit both caution and inspiration.”

Time in nature has proven mental health benefits, and Angela hopes to see the same benefits for visitors to the OCF servers. Taryn McLellan, a psychologist specializing in behaviour and anxiety, is not completely sold on the healing properties of digital nature spaces. “I think it’s presumptuous to say it will have any sort of benefit at this stage,” she says: “that will take time and studies to conclude if there’s any sort of effect. Looking at a painting of a tree doesn’t produce the same reaction in the brain as time among real trees. Conversely, plastic plants as décor have the same calming effect as real plants. I think the OCF has noble intentions, but it’s too early to make any kind of promises.”

The OCF intends to launch its first three exploration-ready environments next January, with regular updates following monthly.