At quick glance, a livestream from Toronto-based creative agency Zulu Alpha Kilo resembles those cozy, repetitive movies of fireplaces that people watch around the holidays: there’s the crackle of wood burning, the warm glow of flames. But a closer look reveals that the video isn’t of logs in a fireplace, but the canopy of the Amazon rainforest. Palm fronds are illuminated in the eerie glow of the smoke.
The stream is part of a campaign called the Rainforest Fire Channel, a project meant to bring attention to the fact that the Amazon is still burning. It’s the winner of the creativity category in Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Awards.
In August 2019, news of the unprecedented Amazon fires dominated the headlines, but by year’s end, the story wasn’t as prominent, though the fires still burned. The Amazon Rainforest Conservancy, a Canadian charity that purchases sections of the Amazon for conservation, education, and research work, reached out to Zulu Alpha Kilo to bring attention back to the burning rain forest.
In December, the agency launched the Rainforest Fire Channel—a “live” stream of the Amazon burning, though it’s really a looping video (the rainforest burns too quickly to set a camera up anywhere and stream continuously). “By setting it up so that it’s on this really long loop and streaming live, not only does it mimic that the Amazon continues to burn, but it gets up to the top of the feed to get eyes on it,” says Michael Romaniuk, art director at Zulu Alpha Kilo.
A promotional video tied the campaign to the holidays, opening with Christmas music and the traditional yule log. “This holiday, there’s one fire we should all be watching closely” appears on the screen as the yule log image transitions to one of the burning rain forest. The campaign garnered more than 25 million impressions and donations to the Amazon Rainforest conservancy increased 875% compared to the previous year.
The world’s attention has largely focused on the pandemic in 2020, but the Amazon is still burning. In 2020, there were more than 2,500 fires across the Brazilian Amazon between May and November, burning an estimated 5.4 million acres. During the 2020 holidays, the campaign was revived, and it will be again in 2021. The Rainforest Fire Channel continues to air as a livestream on YouTube, as well; it’s been live since December 16, 2019. “As long as the rainforest is still burning,” Romaniuk says, “we’ll keep streaming the channel.”