LONDON, England (CNN) -- In a bizarre week that brought news of one Second Life avatar -- the luridly monikered "Stroker Serpentine" -- filing for copyright infringement against a fellow avatar -- "Volkov Catteneo" -- for allegedly copying the design of a virtual sex bed, it's good to report that in a far away sphere of Second Life, avatars are being given the opportunity to involve themselves in a much more wholesome virtual activity that aims to make an environmental difference in the real world.
Second Chance Trees allows avatars to purchase trees to plant in both the virtual and real world.
Second Chance Trees is an innovative project which utilizes Second Life to help reforestation of endangered species of trees all over the planet.
Designed and developed by social media communications company Converseon in collaboration with Plant-It 2020 -- a non-profit foundation set up in 1992 by the late singer John Denver which is dedicated to properly planting, maintaining and protecting as many indigenous trees as possible worldwide -- the Second Chance Trees project is situated on a virtual island designed to imitate real rainforest fauna and wildlife.
As the Second Chance Trees web site explains: "Visitors to the island can learn about the planet's endangered rainforests while exploring hidden caves, riding along the river, and participating in multi-media educational information about the dangers of deforestation."
For 300 Linden dollars -- currently about $1 -- you can plant one of ten realistic simulations of tree species. For every virtual tree purchased, a real one will be planted in an endangered rainforest environment.
"Effective global environmental initiatives require not only physical implementation that embraces local communities and cultures, they must also have a powerful educational component." says Rob Key of Converseon.
"While most people won't ever fly to India to plant a Neem tree, the Second Chance Trees project creates the closest approximation of the experience and is sparking positive word-of-mouth that will hopefully spur others to greater awareness and action."
Moreover, the project has been selected as one of the 50 finalists in the American Express Members Project contest, which gives members the chance to vote for social, educational and environmental ideas that will have a positive impact worldwide.
Second Chance Trees is the only Second Life initiative featured in the final 50, and if the project wins, over one million indigenous trees will be planted in endangered regions throughout the world.
The scheme is just a small part of a burgeoning virtual taskforce that aims to promote awareness of a range of environmental issues that confront the real world in the 21st century.
Earlier this year, London, Tokyo, Amsterdam and the entire Mediterranean island of Ibiza were flooded in the virtual world. The brainchild of David de Rothschild, founder of Adventure Ecology, the aim was to highlight the potentially devastating effects of global warming and remind Second Life users that the energy they expend living virtually needs to be offset in real life.
On April 22nd 2007, Earth Day was observed in Second Life for the first time. The event -- supported by Second Chance Trees -- was organized by the Environmental Council for Second Life and the Luna Bliss company -- who provide beautiful virtual nature islands for individuals and companies -- and included a host of activities ranging from lectures by environmental experts to live concerts to walk-through exhibitions.
Only last week, Live Earth -- the global music extravaganza featuring some of the world's greatest music performers -- was celebrated in Second Life. Hosted by the Center for Water Studies -- a site where avatars can learn about six different water habitats -- and located on Better World Island, music from the event was streamed live on MSN and events were run throughout the day highlighting the threats of climate change and how we can all become more energy efficient in our real lives. E-mail to a friend
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