How cutting edge artificial intelligence is teaching youth about Amazon deforestation

An aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, which is under constant threat of wildfires. Image credit: Getty Images

How cutting edge artificial intelligence is teaching youth about Amazon deforestation

The 26th United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP26) took place between October 28 and November 12, 2021. The event was the scene of negotiations, treaties, and agreements between governments and countries to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change. In parallel, thousands of young people, territorial leaders, and environmentalists met in Glasgow to form new climate strategies and demand active and urgent policy reform.

One of these leaders was Eyal Weintraub, who attended the event to spread the word about Amazonas en Llamas, an interactive environmental project designed for social networks.

Through WhatsApp, Messenger, or Telegram, users enter a chat conversation generated by artificial intelligence with characters from the year 2030. In their world, the Amazon is on fire. Users then focus on possible changes that can save the planet and humanity.

During the exchanges, questions and videos appear that seek to work on the issues of global warming and the challenges faced by the Amazon Rainforest. Although the characters are in a dire situation, the language is positive and offers optimistic ways in which the climate crisis can be mitigated.

Amazonas en Llamas arose from a storytelling grant awarded by National Geographic to the Argentine company Talk2U. In the project’s development, biologists, anthropologists, jurists, geoengineers, and representatives of the original communities of the Amazon participated. A network of thousands of young storytellers contributed to the development of the plot, the creation of the script, and the testing of the technology.

Nicolás Ferrario, scriptwriter and one of the project’s founders, commented that one of the advantages of developing a project for social networks is that a large part of the population already has one of them installed on their cell phones. He added that each user can create their own experience as it is a personal tool.

It is a space where no one feels ashamed for not knowing something that many would take for granted. It is also interesting to think about what happens to those people who do not believe that global warming exists. It must be much more difficult to position oneself against it in a classroom or in a group of friends where the fear of being judged is very present.” — Nicolás Ferrario, Amazonas en Llamas founder

In recent years, environmental issues have been increasingly on the public agenda. The Environmental Education Law was approved in Argentina in May 2021. Its main objective is to incorporate the new sustainability paradigms into formal and non-formal education.

However, in most Latin American countries, there are no specific laws to raise awareness on the subject. One of the biggest problems when teaching the environment is a significant gap in how educators approach the subject.

In that sense, Amazonas en Llamas is an entertaining new way of educating young people about climate change. It also makes users aware of the many effects of a warming planet.

In a report published in mid-2020, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found a marked increase in migrants from different regions of the planet due to the effects of climate change. Yet, the figure of environmental refugees is not present in the collective imagination. For this reason, it is striking that the characters involved in Amazonas en Llamas are three climate refugees who had to migrate from Brazil to southern Argentina after the ecosystem collapsed.

In a world where scientific evidence does not seem to be enough for the entire population to understand the magnitude of the climate crisis, interactive experiences prove to be a potent tool for environmental awareness.

COP26 was the perfect setting to mobilize and demand that governments take objective measures. At the same time, it was also an occasion to publicize projects capable of generating a positive impact, such as Amazonas en Llamas.

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