A few months ago, during a coffee break, at the Greenpeace office in Helsinki, we were chatting about the incredible beauty of the Great Northern Forest. We had just returned from a documentation trip that had left us in awe, not only of the towering trees and deep green mossy floor, but the vast tangled areas that had been stripped away by logging machines and left in ruins.

“If only everyone in the world could see how amazing this place is and how much of it is under threat… I wish we could just transport people straight to the Great Northern Forest!” someone proclaimed.

And then, Jani, our digital guy said, “well, actually, we can, with augmented reality.”

And now, you can.

If you haven’t tried it yet, augmented reality is similar to virtual reality; you just need a smartphone and an internet connection. After downloading the app (see instructions below), a door appears on your phone’s screen, and as you physically walk towards it, you enter the Great Northern Forest.

As you look up, the Northern Lights appear across the sky and you are surrounded by majestic snowy trees. A campfire crackles and invites you closer. In the distance you hear the call of a raven and as you turn to walk towards it, another scene appears; and you’re faced with the all too real destruction of the forest.

The Great Northern Forest stretches across the globe like a green crown, covering Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. It holds almost a quarter of the world’s trees and stores more carbon than all the tropical rainforests combined. It’s the ancestral home of Indigenous peoples like the Sami in Scandinavia and the Cree in Canada. It houses a complex and biodiverse ecosystem full of owls, eagles, wolves, and bears.

Clearcut in Cree territory, Northern Quebec  © Greenpeace© Greenpeace
Clearcut in Cree territory, Northern Quebec

Yet only 3% of this forest is protected and each year vast areas are being lost as logging companies fragment and destroy the forest, turning trees into products like paper towels and packaging that we use only for a brief moment.

Not only is this forest beautiful but it is also a crucial ally in mitigating the worst effects of climate change. Its continued destruction could turn it from a carbon store into a carbon bomb.

Together, we can’t let that happen.

The Great Northern Forest can protect us from climate change, but only if we protect it first.

Join the movement: choose forests.

How to visit the Great Northern Forest in Augmented Reality: 

  1. Download the  Arilyn app (iOS, Android) on your phone.
  2. Open the app and scan this image:
    Great Northern Forest AR target
  3. Follow the instructions on screen: place the gate close to you and walk in!
    Now the gate will be saved in the menu (Playground >> Greenpeace >> TheForestGate)

Ethan Gilbert is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic