Can Virtual Reality Make You a More Responsible Outdoorsman?

Patagonia goes sci-fi to save Bears Ears National Monument

March 16, 2017 9:00 am

“There are skeleton remains along those trails.”

Those are the words of Willie Greyeyes, one of several narrators in Patagonia’s new documentary, This Is Bears Ears.

It’s the company’s latest salvo in a hotly contested debate over public lands, of which Bears Ears National Monument in Utah (which was anointed by President Obama in the waning days of his administration) has become a focal point. Just last month, Patagonia backed out of Outdoor Retailer, a biannual trade show held in Salt Lake City, to protest the Utah state senate’s efforts to rescind Obama’s designation. And now they’ve released Bears Ears, a 360-degree VR experience that relates the monument’s (considerable) historical significance while making you feel like you are there.

The video frames Bears Ears in a light that goes beyond its merits as a recreational area and environmental reserve: for Greyeyes and his Native American brethren, its literally the ground  upon which his ancestors were slaughtered. That they were slaughtered by men similar in stature and appearance to the ones that now wish to take the land from them for mineral use adds a painful twist to the saga.

Of the 10 chapters you can flip through, the first six, about the land’s history, are the most impactful. As an adventure junkie, I get that it’s nice to have pristine places to climb, run and hike, and that Patagonia is a company that promotes outdoor activities to help sell its great goods. But it’s Bears Ears’ spiritual and historical relevance that shouldn’t be overstated here, and prudently, Patagonia devotes more screen time to that end.

“My hope is that Bears Ears will bring healing to those that have passed on,” says Greyeyes.

Take a look. Spin around. Maybe seeing the area in all its natural splendor will compel you to action.

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