National Geographic partnered with Facebook and Félix & Paul Studios to create The White House’s first ever 360-degree virtual reality video experience during President Barack Obama’s June 18 visit to Yosemite National Park. Audiences will have the chance to view the VR video later this summer, along with a full interview between the President and Richard Bacon, host of Explorer on 21st Century Fox’s National Geographic Channel. The interview will be broadcast as part of National Geographic’s Power of Parks initiative, a year-long programming push to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.
“National Geographic helped open up the eyes of people across the country about the wonders of the natural world, and cultures and traditions and societies that people might never have visited,” Obama said. “It sparked people’s imaginations, and it still does. And that’s critically important.”
President Obama’s conversation with Bacon spanned a range of subjects, including climate change, conservation and the cultural value of the national parks, which Obama describes as “America’s best idea.”
“I think that the way a place like this imprints itself in you, especially when you’re young, and carries on for the rest of your life, is remarkable,” Obama said. “I do believe that when we get kids, families, out in open spaces, it changes them. It roots you. It gives you a sense that there’s something bigger and grander than you. It gives you a sense of order.”
The President also spoke about the need for action on climate change, an issue National Geographic has covered extensively. The November edition of the magazine was dedicated exclusively to climate change, and two episodes of the Channel’s recent Breakthrough series explored global water scarcity and the most promising alternative energy sources. In addition, the Channel will air the second season of Years of Living Dangerously, the Emmy Award-winning documentary series about climate change, this October.
“One of the things that binds us together is we only have one planet, and climate change is probably the biggest threat – not only to natural wonders like this–but to the well-being of billions of people: coastal cities, agricultural communities that can be displaced in the span of a few decades by changes in temperatures that mean more drought, more wildfires,” the President said. “Part of why it’s so important for us to raise awareness [about climate change] with the general public is: This is a solvable problem.”
National Geographic launched its cross-platform Power of Parks campaign in January with a special issue of National Geographic magazine dedicated exclusively to America’s national parks. The initiative also includes an Explore the Power of Parks web portal featuring the latest magazine stories and photos, travel guides, maps, and educational resources. National Geographic Channel’s special programming on the parks begins August 23 and will include a new version of its signature Explorer series with Bacon as the host.
21st Century Fox expanded its partnership with the National Geographic Society last fall, with 27% of all proceeds going toward the Society’s scientific pursuits.
Read National Geographic’s full account of the President’s visit to Yosemite, including photos by Nat Geo Photographer David Guttenfelder.