The ocean is beautiful, powerful and full of some of the most incredible forms of life that exist on our planet. However, anthropogenic emissions are causing huge problems for the underwater world, as every post in this blog will inform you. Recently, we watched a film entitled ‘A Sea Change’ which was concerned with one problem in particular –ocean acidification- but unfortunately, I think this film will not help to raise appropriate awareness for this issue.
There are several things which I disliked about the film; a) Sven was not a scientist, and so therefore the science behind the problems was greatly downplayed b) Sven insisted on including emotional scenes between himself and his grandson and c) the only solutions given were to do with the mass production of ‘green’ energy. This film was clearly aimed at a scientifically ‘layman’ audience and therefore had no problem interpreting ‘scientific fact’ and ‘experiments’ in slightly creative ways. The most frustrating point, from my personal point of view, is that these was no need to use such techniques as the acidification of the ocean has been clearly proven in proper research and there is no need to simplify the process down to the point where the ‘experiments’ being shown are somewhat misleading.
Using the scene where the acidity of carbonic acid is demonstrated by testing the pH of coca-cola and then carbonated (fizzy) water, as an example, it is not hard to identify the blatant hyperbole. The pH is found to be 2 and 4 respectively; what is not explained, however, until later in the documentary is that the pH of the sea is no-where near this low. The film gives the impression that the ocean will soon be acidic enough to dissolve teeth in! It is also not explained that the pH scale is logarithmic; so when the pH of the ocean is eventually revealed to be 8.1, down from 8.2, it sounds like far less of a problem that it actually is, as 0.1 on the pH scale is actually an increase in the concentration of Hydrogen Ions present in the ocean by about 30%!
Playing on people’s emotions is a risky tactic when dealing with ‘duty’ (to be a good citizen, to look after the planet, etc). ‘A Sea Change’ has more than enough scenes intended to play on one’s emotional side, and unfortunately the effect wears off after the first few to leave the viewer very aware to what the film is attempting to do, and unamused as a result. The continual scenes between Sven and his grandson may start off as sweet, especially as Sven is carrying out his ‘research’ because he wants his grandson to be able to enjoy the sea as he himself has, but as these scenes progress they halt the flow of the plot and get increasingly irrelevant. For example, there is a scene of between one and two minutes where nothing is said, and we are shown Sven and his grandson swimming together. This scene might have had a more positive effect at the start of the film, but by the time we actually watch it we have seen so many clips of similar significance that any sense of guilt –derived from creating carbon dioxide emissions which are ruining the world for this little boy – has entirely worn off and is replaced by a feeling of being manipulated. If you are trying to glean knowledge about the state of the ocean from this film all of these detours and pauses in the flow of knowledge are very noticeable, and detract considerably from any academic feel the film might otherwise have.
Despite its weaknesses, the film does contain some interesting information and a few good ideas about how to reduce carbon emissions; it is just unfortunate that they are not very supported and few and far between.
I think that your opinion on the whole baby tooth scene is appropriate, as it is ridiculous and unnecessary, but I disagree with your idea that “…this film will not help to raise appropriate awareness for this issue”. In a world full of sensationalism within the media, I thought A Sea Change drew an appropriate line in how dramatic they made the issue seem. To even get the issue out there, the story had to have some basis of concerning the public, and I think the documentary did not overstate the facts.
In the last sentence where you wrote that carbon emissions reduction efforts “are not very supported” did you mean not well elaborated in the film? I’m not too familiar with the peer-reviewed literature on these emerging technologies, but I’m fairly certain they’re supported by sound studies. Interesting analysis overall.