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Screaming Trees

Screaming Trees

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

September 17, 2018

Giving the forest a voice.

"The Screaming Tree is a 3G-connected device that monitors the sounds of the forest and reacts as soon as it identifies the sound signature of a chainsaw."

The forests in Romania are a sight to see. That’s because many are old-growth forests, i.e., they’ve matured without any big disturbances—that is, until now. Today, they are in danger. Illegal logging, weak legislation, and systemic corruption are causing this vast woodland to disappear—fast.

But a local NGO, Agent Green, is working with Havas Düsseldorf to fend off illegal loggers. Arnaud Atchimon, the agency’s Creative Technologist, and Helmut Schulte, International Creative Director at Havas Germany, give us some insight into the issue and unveil how technology is giving these trees a voice, literally.

How serious is the problem of illegal deforestation in Romania?

The Romanian primeval forest accounts for around 2/3 of the remaining primeval stock in Europe. State conservation measures are ineffective and around three hectares per hour are being cleared, even as deforestation is having increasingly devastating effects on the climate, the ecosystem, and the economy in Europe (source: Greenpeace). Today, only about 10% of these primeval forests have the World Natural Heritage status. NGOs and scientists are fighting for the remaining 90%, which are open for logging.

What areas are the loggers targeting?

Especially the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, like so Valea Higeg in the Tarcu Mountains, Cernisoara in the Domogled National Park, and Cosava Mica in the Semenic Mountains. These regions have been opened by the government for logging and their infrastructure makes illegal logging more or less uncontrollable. In addition, logging goes on in the buffer zones of the protected 10% because the UNESCO definition of these zones is unclear.

What is the idea behind this campaign, “Screaming Trees”?

To literally give the victims of this screaming injustice—the trees—a voice to call for help.

What type of devices is on the trees?

The Screaming Tree is a 3G-connected device that monitors the sounds of the forest and reacts as soon as it identifies the sound signature of a chainsaw. Once the device has been triggered, it sends alerts out to the local authorities.  

"The primary goal is to raise awareness of this crime against nature, happening in our immediate neighborhood."

Can you talk a little bit about the design?

We designed the device as a classic birdhouse to have a decent-looking container for the technological components. With solar panels installed on the roof, we created a very modern and self-sufficient solution.

How did Agent Green and Havas Germany come up with the idea?

One of Havas’ art directors read an article in a newsmagazine about this scandalous crime happening while the Romanian government took no action. So she thought: “What can we do about it?”’

What are the main goals of this campaign?

The primary goal is to raise awareness of this crime against nature, happening in our immediate neighborhood. Second, to attract donations—all of course, to help protect the remaining primeval forest we have in Europe.

What impact, so far, have these devices made on illegal deforestation and raising public awareness?

It is too early for a detailed impact assessment of the devices or the campaign as a whole. We have promoted the campaign on the web and on television via the German news channel ntv and are looking forward to great results via the different touchpoints.

How long do these devices remain on the trees?

Hopefully, devices will remain for a few years, but they will probably need to be checked every few months to make sure everything continues to work fine.

What consequences do loggers face when they’re caught illegally destroying trees?

So far, there have been no significant fines or sanctions against individual lumberjacks or logging companies.

There have been some judgments imposing fines or sanctions for illegal logging and illegal trade, but they are very minimal, and many of them simply nullified. The legal situation is deeply undermined by corruption and mercilessly exploited.

Are there other parts of this campaign?

Not specifically for “Screaming Trees,” but Agent Green has many other ongoing projects to save the primeval forests in Romania.

"The Screaming Tree is a 3G-connected device that monitors the sounds of the forest and reacts as soon as it identifies the sound signature of a chainsaw."

The forests in Romania are a sight to see. That’s because many are old-growth forests, i.e., they’ve matured without any big disturbances—that is, until now. Today, they are in danger. Illegal logging, weak legislation, and systemic corruption are causing this vast woodland to disappear—fast.

But a local NGO, Agent Green, is working with Havas Düsseldorf to fend off illegal loggers. Arnaud Atchimon, the agency’s Creative Technologist, and Helmut Schulte, International Creative Director at Havas Germany, give us some insight into the issue and unveil how technology is giving these trees a voice, literally.

How serious is the problem of illegal deforestation in Romania?

The Romanian primeval forest accounts for around 2/3 of the remaining primeval stock in Europe. State conservation measures are ineffective and around three hectares per hour are being cleared, even as deforestation is having increasingly devastating effects on the climate, the ecosystem, and the economy in Europe (source: Greenpeace). Today, only about 10% of these primeval forests have the World Natural Heritage status. NGOs and scientists are fighting for the remaining 90%, which are open for logging.

What areas are the loggers targeting?

Especially the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians, like so Valea Higeg in the Tarcu Mountains, Cernisoara in the Domogled National Park, and Cosava Mica in the Semenic Mountains. These regions have been opened by the government for logging and their infrastructure makes illegal logging more or less uncontrollable. In addition, logging goes on in the buffer zones of the protected 10% because the UNESCO definition of these zones is unclear.

What is the idea behind this campaign, “Screaming Trees”?

To literally give the victims of this screaming injustice—the trees—a voice to call for help.

What type of devices is on the trees?

The Screaming Tree is a 3G-connected device that monitors the sounds of the forest and reacts as soon as it identifies the sound signature of a chainsaw. Once the device has been triggered, it sends alerts out to the local authorities.  

"The primary goal is to raise awareness of this crime against nature, happening in our immediate neighborhood."

Can you talk a little bit about the design?

We designed the device as a classic birdhouse to have a decent-looking container for the technological components. With solar panels installed on the roof, we created a very modern and self-sufficient solution.

How did Agent Green and Havas Germany come up with the idea?

One of Havas’ art directors read an article in a newsmagazine about this scandalous crime happening while the Romanian government took no action. So she thought: “What can we do about it?”’

What are the main goals of this campaign?

The primary goal is to raise awareness of this crime against nature, happening in our immediate neighborhood. Second, to attract donations—all of course, to help protect the remaining primeval forest we have in Europe.

What impact, so far, have these devices made on illegal deforestation and raising public awareness?

It is too early for a detailed impact assessment of the devices or the campaign as a whole. We have promoted the campaign on the web and on television via the German news channel ntv and are looking forward to great results via the different touchpoints.

How long do these devices remain on the trees?

Hopefully, devices will remain for a few years, but they will probably need to be checked every few months to make sure everything continues to work fine.

What consequences do loggers face when they’re caught illegally destroying trees?

So far, there have been no significant fines or sanctions against individual lumberjacks or logging companies.

There have been some judgments imposing fines or sanctions for illegal logging and illegal trade, but they are very minimal, and many of them simply nullified. The legal situation is deeply undermined by corruption and mercilessly exploited.

Are there other parts of this campaign?

Not specifically for “Screaming Trees,” but Agent Green has many other ongoing projects to save the primeval forests in Romania.

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