Walk into the Great Northern Forest – All You Need is a Phone

by Ethan Gilbert

July 24, 2018

Ever wish you could be transported straight into the Great Northern Forest? With the help of augmented reality, you can be there right now.

Northern Lights with an illuminated sky.

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.

Aerial view over Oulujärvi (the Oulu lake) islands in central Finland, municipality of Vaala, in the border of Northern Ostrobothnia and Kainuu regions.The state-owned pine dominated old-growth forest is planned to be logged by Finnish state-owned company, Metsähallitus. The islands on the 4th biggest lake in Finland are part of UNESCO Geopark and National Hiking Area and also belong to Natura 2000 network. These forested islands were protected as old-growth forest by governmental Metsahallitus in 2001 in its Landscape Ecological Plan for the municipality of Vaala. In 2017 the protection decision was canceled and the forest is now marked for industrial logging.

“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.

Forest in the Grusryggarna area near the town of Bräcke, Jämtland County, Sweden. This natural forest is marked for logging, despite being located in a High-Value Forest Landscape, which means the area has been identified by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency as having particularly high ecological preservation values. Biodiversity is threatened by massive habitat loss, but logging companies continue to expand into the last remaining forest areas critical for biodiversity in Sweden and other parts of the boreal forest.

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:
  3. Follow the instructions on the screen: place the gate close to you and walk in!
    Now the gate will be saved in the menu (Playground >> Greenpeace >> TheForestGate)

By Ethan Gilbert

Ethan Gilbert is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.

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