A world without trees?

Abreen Rebello listens to Forest 404 by BBC Sounds.

Forest 404 is a BBC Sounds scripted podcast, set in the 24th Century, in a world where nature doesn’t exist. This dystopian thriller features protagonist Pan, who is a sound archivist from the future, known as the Fast Times. Her job is to sift through thousands of audio recordings and delete those which are useless. Pan stumbles upon an audio file from the 21st Century which haunts her, a sound so unfamiliar, she just cannot let go. When she finds this old recording of a tropical rainforest; she is perplexed, because ‘forests no longer exist’…

A concerned Pan embarks on her quest to find out the truth about the Slow Times (21st century) and what really happened to nature.

This podcast was recommended to me solely due to the theme music by Bonobo, one of my favourite artists. Each episode is accompanied by a soundscape as well as a talk which explores the themes that inspired the series, featuring musicians, anthropologists and bio-futurists. One of the more inspirational of these is by Alex Smalley on how spending time in nature affects our mental wellbeing. Eco psychologists attest that exposure to nature is vital for the psychological and physical health of humans, and substantial scientific evidence supports these claims. The link between nature and mental wellbeing is nothing new. He goes on to explore the loss of connection between humans and nature that has emerged in the last 200 years between, due in no small part to advances in technology and pharmaceuticals. Although these advances have been incredibly beneficial for society, this shift away from the natural world has meant that the connection is forgotten.

Forest 404 excellently provokes the listener to acknowledge that modern society takes nature for granted. The series guides listeners to imagine the world we know today as a thing of the past, a future where all we have left of nature is an audio file of a rainforest, a chilling thought to say the least.

The Virtual Nature project partnered with the BBC alongside this series to create the Forest 404 Experiment. 7600 people participated in the experiment which closed at the end of September 2019 to analyse the therapeutic potential of nature-based sounds. Previous research about nature and wellbeing (e.g. from Pamela Pensini, see tinyurl.com/vncekec) has primarily focused on the visual effects of nature, but this study will contribute new knowledge about how people respond to different sounds in nature. More about the experiment and its findings can be found on: https://virtual-nature.com/latest and https://virtual-nature.com/blog/sneak-peek

Reviewed by Abreen Rebello, Psychology BSc student at Birkbeck.

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