Imagine a world with out fish. No, literally take a minute and picture a world where fish were no more. In the words of a psychologist, “How does this make you feel?” happy? sad? mad? alarmed? Well as I read the title “A Sea Change: Imagine a World Without Fish” I felt the latter of the options. I felt like I was being warned about what was to come in the future. Prior to watching the “A Sea Change”, I had in my mind that the film would be a dramatic documentary of what “is” or “will be” the tragic effect’s of ocean acidification. Come on, who wouldn’t think the same about a film with such a name as this one? Contrastingly, I saw a different variation as I began to watch the film. Sven Huseby opened the scene with the introduction of his five-year-old grandson. This family oriented view and non-vicious approach quickly shifted my mindset and allowed me to openly accept the so-called “dramatic documentary.”
At one point Huseby says, “The power to affect change begins with knowledge”. This comic variation posits that “time is open-ended, allowing for the possibility of change.” Huseby’s words convince humans that we can help make a difference. Additionally, a keynote in the process is the beginning. If you want to make something happen (or in this case, not happen), you have to start somewhere. And if where to begin is the question, do as Huseby says and start with knowledge. For this instance, start with learning more about what is happening or what could happen with ocean acidification. Start with talking with others about the issue. Discuss ocean acidification with your children and your children’s children. The film’s comic view is directly evident in the character Huseby. Huseby (representing all humans) begins his quest for change. He gains knowledge (by doing research). He talks with others about ocean acidification (by interviewing experts). He even discusses the issue with his grandson.
In all, the clear message “A Sea Change” gives its audience is that humans can still take action and influence the future. By framing ocean acidification as a comic apocalypse, the film lets humans know they have a chance to correct their mistakes. In addition, the audience learns that it is not too late. It is not too late to learn more. It is not too late to take action. It is not too late to be a Sven Huseby.
Like with a lot of current global issues, everyone has their two cents on the effects of global warming, pollution, or the need for alternative energy sources. Ocean acidification, while probably less mediatized than melting icecaps, is no exception. A Sea Change is one man, Sven Huseby’s, attempt to raise awareness about the issue of ocean acidification in the hope that it will stir people into action and starting something.
A Sea Change differs somewhat from other movies/documentaries about pollution issues because while it does take on that slight tragic tone every now and then, which is probably unavoidable given the film’s message, it never goes into full swing “Gloom and doom” and it doesn’t point an excessively accusatory finger at the audience. A lot of this is thanks to the creative approach taken to creating this film. By presenting the issue of Ocean Acidification to us indirectly, by primarily directing his message at his 5 years-old grandson, Sven keeps the tone of the movie light enough so the audience doesn’t feel alienated from the get go. It’s an unusual approach but the positive effects are noticeable. Even though it addresses an issue just as important, this film never feels as heavy as Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. As the saying goes, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
But, just like everything, the film isn’t perfect, there are some flaws. We have a couple fallacies, a few exaggerations here and there, some apocalyptic predictions, and a few tear jerkers. Whether this is intentional or not, Sven does a good job at leaving those moments to the people he interviews since, as he clearly puts it, he’s not an expert, just someone who’s passionate about this issue and hopes to play a part in resolving it. In one particular instance, a scientist being interviewed attempts to draw a parallel between the fear of global deterioration this generation faces with the threat of nuclear war that existed last century. While it’s true that both of these things were problems that affected the entire world, the differences in magnitude between these two issues is rather flagrant. They’re not exactly apples and oranges, but to say that they’re the same is stretching it a bit thin. Disappearing coral reefs are a problem we can’t ignore, there is no doubt about that. Coral reefs are, as it is often put, the cradle of ocean biodiversity. They feed or shelter the tiny organisms that in turn feed bigger organisms higher up the food chain, all the way to the commercially valuable ones that we’re familiar with. So, even if it’s for no other reason than our own shelfishness, um, I mean selfishness, it is clear that coral reefs are something we don’t want to see disappear. There would be repercussions throughout the ocean that would ultimately reach us. But to predict that by the end of this century we might live in a world without fish is going down a rather slippery slope. And of course, what would any film about environmental problems be without that poor pelican drenched in oil?
In spite of some of the aforementioned flaws, the message this film leaves us with isn’t a negative one. Throughout the movie, children are given a prominent role. Sven narrates the movie as a series of letters to his grandson, and there are several scenes of them together. But several of the scientists he interviews are either with their children or make a few references to them. As mentioned before, this helps keep the tone light. Additionally, the film does more than simply point to the problem and leave the pondering to us. A few feasible methods of reducing and ultimately cutting CO2 emissions are looked at. This gives the audience a sense that what is happening isn’t beyond humanity’s control and nor is it inevitable. It takes some time and effort, but we can fix our messes.
Here is the assignment prompt for MP1: Wr20_Fall11_MP1. Please download it so we can go over it in class on Monday. You will not need your laptops, unless you prefer to view this handout electronically instead of printing (although I suppose many of you use your phones for this purpose!)