UN75 in Hiroshima (The report by the participant)
2020 falls on the 75th anniversary of both the atomic bombing and the founding of the United Nations. In order to commemorate this year, the United Nations is encouraging people worldwide to engage in discussions looking towards the future.
In response to this initiative, we held the global peace dialogue event, “UN 75 in Hiroshima” on August 6, 2020. Ms. NAKAMITSU Izumi, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, and participants chosen from among the public will discuss ways to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and an agenda for disarmament announced by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. We introduce the report by Ms. Mary POPEO, a participant of the event and Business Director of NPO Peace Culture Village (https://peaceculturevillage.org/).
I am beyond overwhelmed and grateful for the opportunity to have participated in UN 75 in Hiroshima. This meeting of inspiring world-changers has had an instant and lasting impact on me, as a foreigner living in Japan, as a young person, and as a peace educator. Being able to express my ideas and discuss my work in my native language was a rare and empowering experience. Receiving direct feedback from role models working for social good on the international level was surreal. And connecting with young folks doing what I can only describe as epic work for disarmament in their communities inspired and energized me.
Since that day, my cohort and I have already begun to collaborate on projects across Japan and the world. A few of us worked together to facilitate an online tour of Hiroshima Peace Park for people from Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. One member and I have teamed up with dozens of young activists to offer youth-led field trips for students who visit Hiroshima, in both Japanese and English. And a group of us are now preparing to connect with American students to engage in online conversations about topics that matter to us.
My presentation at UN 75 in Hiroshima centered around PEACE PORTAL, a new initiative being developed by Peace Culture Village, the nonprofit where I work. PEACE PORTAL is a collection of online programs that use AR, VR, CG, Google Earth, and other digital technologies to provide Hiroshima-based learning opportunities to people around the world, some of whom would never be able to visit Hiroshima otherwise.
As eloquently explained by several of my colleagues at UN 75 in Hiroshima and poignantly illustrated by the development and deployment of nuclear weapons around the world, technological advancements have been harnessed to wreak destruction on humanity and our planet. However, in my personal experience, I’ve found technology to be an extremely powerful force for good, immersive video game technology in particular.
Video games have a reputation for engendering indifference or even violence. Conversely, I believe the skills we learn and the experiences we gain playing video games empower us to do good in the world, connecting us across physical and cultural barriers. As agents in control of the action or story, we practice team work, accomplish goals, grapple with moral decisions, and learn to deeply empathize with and care about complex characters and narratives, all in a safe, simulated environment. Here are just a few examples of how immersive, virtual worlds are contributing to universal wellbeing on our planet, right now!
Game designers like Deepa Mann-Kler and Jane McGonigal create VR and AR applications to treat people living with chronic pain or recovering from concussions.
Afghan women coders at Code to Inspire design games to raise awareness of their country’s opioid crisis.
Game Academy helps graduating college students discern and prepare for careers through skills learned in video games.
The International Red Cross partnered with popular game Fortnite on a creative mode where players win by learning to save lives in a war zone.
South Sudanese refugee Lual Mayen’s game Salaam builds empathy by putting players in the shoes of a person fleeing their war-torn homeland.
For us here in Hiroshima, perhaps the most pressing dilemma we face is how to pass on and preserve the critical role of the hibakusha, the heart and human faces of the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons. The average age of the hibakusha is over 83 and we may be the among the last to hear their experience first hand. Without their direct testimony, how can we continue to convey the reality and danger of our nuclear world, especially in a time where people are unable to physically travel to Hiroshima? I believe that immersive, virtual simulations and experiences may hold the key to connecting hibakusha and younger generations for years to come.
This is the goal of PEACE PORTAL. We are working with international partners like New York-based AR/VR company TimeLooper and the VR world-building students at Fukuyama Technical High School to create digital spaces that help people make personal connections to the hibakusha and draw inspiration from Hiroshima’s message of resilience and hope. I often daydream about the seemingly endless possibilities: riding the street car or meeting the locals of pre-bombing Hiroshima in virtual reality; working in a team to guide a country on the brink of nuclear war to a more peaceful future in an online simulation game; touring Peace Park while using AR smartphone apps to hear from holograms of survivors about their experiences.
PEACE PORTAL is still in development and we still have a long way to go, but I hope we can be part of a movement to expand access to and preserve the soul of Hiroshima around the world and into the future.Download PEACE PORTAL (App Store)