Perhaps due to the fact that I had barely even heard of “ocean acidification” prior to signing up for this course, I found Barbara Ettinger’s “A Sea Change” to be both thoroughly informative as well as effective in conveying its main message. The film, which does not waste any time, jumps straight to the point with main character/narrator Sven Huseby saying “Imagine a world without fish…”. These first words themselves set the tone of the entire film: uncertainty, worriedness, and even desperation. These same feelings are further relayed at later occasions in the film, one example being when Sven attends a conference regarding the topic of ocean acidification. At the conference, a few of the scientists present are interviewed for the film, and at one point one scientist is asked “Are we screwed?” to which he replies, without hesitation, “Yes.” Additionally, when Sven first explains his attempts to learn as much as he can about ocean acidification in order to teach his grandson Elias about it, he states that he feels sorry for Elias, since he has been born so late relative to the beginning of earth. He claims that it is sad to be born so late in a world that is already degraded. Thus, by showcasing such pessimistic and almost tragically apocalyptic dialogue, the filmmaker is able to get the general audience to realize that ocean acidification is a serious problem and that something must be done about it.
Somewhat contrasting to the underlying tone of urgency and desperation, the filmmaker also makes sure to portray hope and optimism in regards to the solution for lessening ocean acidification. First, the use of children (primarily Sven’s grandson Elias) throughout the film is meant to appeal to the general audience’s emotions, so that they will be more inspired to take action against the ocean acidification problem. The filmmaker also uses children to represent the potential hope and possibility of overcoming this obstacle. Sven blatantly states that his main objective with regards to ocean acidification is to acquire as much information as he can about it and then teach all of it to his grandson, in hopes that Elias and the rest of his generation will be empowered to take action towards ending or lessening ocean acidification. This hopeful tone falls under the category of comic apocalypse since it is promoting the notion that humans have some control over and ability to influence the overall global warming issue. In addition to the portrayal of children as the new generation capable of fixing what older generations have “destroyed,” the filmmaker also makes sure to end the movie on a further positive note by showing Sven speaking with various scientists about wind-powered and solar-powered machines and buildings, that have the potential to significantly reduce the emission of carbon dioxide. Thus, Ettinger, in her film “A Sea Change,” is able to achieve her goal by 1) making sure the audience is aware how serious of a problem ocean acidification and how desperate we are for a solution and 2) highlighting a means of recovery by entrusting children with this task and shedding light on upcoming innovative ideas.
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.
The film “A Sea Change” has a noble goal, I will admit that. Barbara Ettinger should be applauded for attempting to raise awareness and spread knowledge about ocean acidification through an easily accessible medium. Ocean acidification has yet to penetrate the public consciousness as deeply as global warming has, and Ettinger aims to bring attention to the fact that ocean acidification deserves more of our thought and efforts.
And I think this is fantastic. I wholeheartedly agree that this issue is important and needs to be addressed, swiftly and effectively. However, the methods used to convince the watcher that ocean acidification is a pressing problem left a sour taste in my mouth. Granted, I’m not exactly a member of Ettinger’s target audience. Going into the movie, I already knew a substantial amount about ocean acidification—enough that I didn’t really glean any new information from the film. Because of this, instead of needing to absorb the facts that were being explained, I could focus mainly on the methods Ettinger uses to put those facts and her message across to the audience.
Much of the film is centered on Sven Huseby’s relationship with Elias, his grandson. Sven begins his journey because he is concerned about the world that his grandson will inherit, and periodically narrates letters that he addresses to an older Elias. Presumably, Ettinger chose this central narrative as a way to connect with her audience personally—most people can probably relate to the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild more easily than they could a pteropod’s relationship with the pH of the oceans. In an effort to make hard science more appealing to the general public, Ettinger uses people instead of the ocean and its inhabitants as the main players.
It was well-meant, but for me this emotional appeal completely backfired. Maybe it’s because I’m a cynic, but the continued use of children throughout the film to tug at the audience’s heartstrings and to highlight the potential of youth seemed borderline exploitative. There were barely fifteen continuous minutes during the film that were free of shots of children or mentions of children or references to children. A pteropod researcher brought her daughter into the lab so that Sven could talk to her about how pretty the “water angels” were, we see a baby tooth being dissolved in carbonated water, and there are countless shots of Elias bonding with his grandfather. As sweet as it was to see Sven splashing around in a pool with his little grandson, or the two going whale-watching together, after a point, scenes involving children seemed unnatural and staged as it became increasingly obvious that they were being used as devices to sway the audience into caring about ocean acidification.
Overall, as much as I appreciated the sentiment behind “A Sea Change,” I think it could have benefited from focusing more on the science rather than using children as a ploy to take advantage the audience’s emotions. While I don’t doubt that the relationship between Sven and Elias is genuine, I think it distracted from the truly pressing issue that is ocean acidification— an issue that deserves more screen time than it got.
A Sea Change, a documentary directed by Barbara Ettinger, features Sven, an older man, on a journey to learn more about ocean acidification. Focused on sending a message to the public on the dangers that ocean acidification will have on our planet, Ettinger tries to achieve this by scaring us by possible doom. This is evident by the second line in the title: Imagine a World Without Fish. A highly alarmist title, it sets the pace for the entire documentary and puts the audience on edge.
This movie takes the approach of having Sven, a grandfather, write to his grandson, Elias, about his journey as he learns more about the effects of ocean acidification. A new and interesting approach, it impacts the audience with the implications that ocean acidification may not directly affect them personally but it will mean disaster for future generations to come. For some this may have had its desired effect. It may have alienated others; however, as it is being transparently manipulative of the audience’s ethos.
While partially alarmist, this documentary does not take the apocalyptic tone that other media outlets have depended on to grasp the public’s attention to this pressing issue. Instead, Sven travels around the world to places such as Seattle and the Arctic Circle to interview leading researchers in the area of ocean acidification. As a result, the documentary presents and addresses multiple viewpoints on the ways to deal with ocean acidification. While they all give different predictions of how ocean acidification will affect us, these researchers also all converge on the idea that it is occurring at an alarming rate and that we need to act fast if it isn’t too late already to stop the current rates of carbon emission.
The intended audience of this documentary is the general public as is evidenced by the informal and non-academic tone of this documentary. While it steers clear of confusing technical jargon and scientific data it also fails to support the claims made by some of the researchers and interviewees. For example, a scientist asserts in the film that the cost to solve the problem of carbon emission would only be 1 to 2 percent of the total GDP of the United States. However, he fails to back up his claim with any more evidence and expects the audience to naïvely accept it. The documentary also fails in other ways to describe the actual process of ocean acidification simply opting to describe its dangers and possible implication. One of this documentary’s strengths; however, is that it ends on an almost positive note by giving the audience hope for change by explaining developing green technologies to decrease our carbon footprint. Regardless of its technique, A Sea Change calls the audience to action and is a step forward for increased public awareness of ocean acidification.
Climate change could have devastating effects on our world. At this point, that goes without saying. It is deeply saddening, then, that so many people appear apathetic to global warming, and particularly, to ocean acidification. Advocates of global-warming awareness and prevention use myriad strategies to galvanize the populace. Among those is the use of emotional fallacies. The film A Sea Change is one such medium of climate change advocacy to use emotional fallacies to touch its viewers.
In one of narrator Sven Huseby’s various stops on his journey to learn about ocean acidification, he speaks to a scientist that appeals to his and, by extension, our, sense of morality and even religion. The scientist utters the provocative statement and emotional fallacy that “by ignoring climate change, you’re killing 50 million people.” He prefaces this bold assertion by delving into religion and ethics. He claims that if you kill someone and die, that upon reaching heaven, God will think less of you than of someone who did not commit such a sin. His intent is to suggest that by remaining idle in the fight against global warming, you are doing the same thing but on a much grander scale.
The proposition is one that could easily polarize the film’s audience. Bringing even the faintest hint of religion into a scientific matter is enough to infuriate some intense atheist or empirical audience members. This section could be perceived as highly pretentious.
If not a bit preachy, the quote is certainly stimulating. The premise of indirectly killing millions of people invokes feelings of guilt. It hits closer to home than the potential to destroy coral reefs or diatoms. People see murder as the ultimate crime, so if viewers can make a connection between global-warming indifference and murder, then those people may have found all they need to take action. This scene is probably highly effective with the religiously observant.
Fortunately, the documentary does a good job of providing many different incentives to act on the problems it presents and, above all, hope. It would be foolish to shun the entire film’s message solely because one person in it brought religion into the discussion. While it is a controversial direction to go in, it is only mentioned for a single scene. For those that are turned off by the idea presented by this scientist, much can still be gleaned from the documentary. And for those that react positively to this scene, the film is doing its job of raising awareness.
A Sea Change is a documentary directed by award-winning filmmaker Barbara Ettinger. In my opinion, the film mainly serves two purposes. First, it aims to raise the general public’s awareness about ocean acidification, an emerging and ongoing environmental issue that is not very familiar to most people. Second, the film introduces several possible solutions to this problem, so that the audience may come up with some thoughts about how they can make their own contribution to improve the situation.
To achieve these objectives, Barbara used several rhetorical tools in the documentary, among which I picked one that particularly interested me.
The main character of the film is Sven Huseby, a retired history teacher who cares about his grandson just as much as everyone else does. The interaction between them forms the main story line of the film. Technically, it serves very well as the linkage between different chapters of the documentary. For instance, at the start and end of every trip that Sven makes to discover more about ocean acidification, he will either call or write to his grandson and tell him what he has done and what he will be doing. The audience can therefore have a clearer idea about the theme and main points highlighted in the film. This prevents the audience from being confused by too much information at a time and hence, improves the effectiveness of the film in raising people’s awareness and knowledge about the ocean acidification.
Besides, choosing Sven Huseby as the main character also helps to forge a strong bond between the audience and the film emotionally. This is because Sven and the audience share a lot of similarities. Neither of them knows much about the science behind ocean acidification. Neither of them are environmental activists. They are just normal people who care about their grandchildren and want to reserve the beautiful things they enjoy today to future generation. These similarities subtly make Sven a person whom we tend to trust and agree with more. Taking my personal experience as an example, when I watched Sven playing with his grandson at the beach and write down “SOS” on the wet sand, I told myself that I should do something like Sven did for my grandchildren too.
However, there is danger behind this trust and agreement. Our emotional tie to Sven may impede us from receiving information from him critically and objectively. There is one scene in which Sven types “CO2 + H2O” in Google and highlights the search result to show us the worsening situation the ocean is facing. This seems perfectly acceptable at first because Sven is doing something that we do almost every day to gather information we need. However, if we think about it again, there is high possibility that Google will give us inaccurate or even false information, since the Internet sources have minimal credibility due to lack of authenticity and peer-reviewing system. In a documentary that aims to give the audience genuine facts about ocean acidification and raise their awareness about the issue, this scene is to some extent misleading.
Overall, I think choosing Sven as the main character and focusing on the interaction between him and his grandson is more of a boon than a bane, especially in structuring the whole film and helping the audience understand the theme better.
In the documentary A Sea Change, retired educator Sven Huseby travels the world examining the effects of ocean acidification on the worlds various marine ecosystems. Throughout the film, the focus remains on only the negative effects of the increasing ocean acidity, entirely ignoring any possible fixes and conveying a sense of helplessness to the viewer. However, as the film concludes, the rhetoric changes in favor of creating hope and giving the human race a call to action to save the world’s oceans from acidification.
The first major example of positive, hopeful rhetoric comes is the appearance of an eco-friendly foreign hotel that institutes a heating and cooling system that emits no carbon. Such as system drew on nearby ocean water in order to provide heat and air conditioning for the entire building without releasing any anthropogenic carbon. In the conversation between Sven and the hotel representation, the film makes clear that such technology could be used in many coastal areas in the United States of America, thereby giving Americans hope that they can implement such technologies to help save the oceans and spurring them to action.
Likewise, Sven visits a very windy area on the coast of Norway and meets with a pair of experts on wind energy. They discuss turbines that will convert the energy in the wind into clean energy used to power large areas. As with the hotel, the film makes a point of naming specific locations in the United States where such turbines could operate highly efficiently, once again using rhetoric that will spur Americans to take action in the hopes of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Finally, Sven visits the headquarters of the corporation Google, famous for its search engine. While receiving a tour of the grounds, the documentary prominently features the myriad arrays of solar panels. In addition, the conversation between Sven and his guide strongly emphasizes that the solar panels provide for one third of Google’s power consumption. This rhetoric strongly influences people to believe that by investing in solar panels themselves they can cut down on carbon dioxide emissions and therefore do their part to save the world’s oceans.
After implementing mostly despairing rhetoric through the majority of A Sea Change, the documentary changes to a style which inspires hope in the viewer. This hope coupled with the possible solutions the film provides to the carbon dioxide emission problem intends to spur the film’s viewers to action. Ideally, the ending would influence every viewer to do his or her utmost to reduce carbon emissions and save the oceans.
In A Sea Change, Sven Huseby corresponds with his grandson Elias as he goes on his quest to learn more about “the other carbon dioxide problem,” known as ocean acidification. Huseby uses the letter writing to Elias as way to represent the burden placed upon younger generations in regards to taking care of the environment. He made a strategic choice in picking his grandson who is too young to even truly comprehend much of this pressing situation. By doing this, Huseby clearly illustrates that it will be the responsibility of those that cannot do very much right now to ultimately resolve this issue. When images and clips of his grandson and other young children appear in the film, it distracts the viewer from the facts being laid out at the moment. At one point, there is a young boy talking about some negative effects of ocean acidification, and it is quite difficult to take in the facts being thrown out. Viewers tend to simply accept ocean acidification as a real problem without fully taking in and understanding the facts. Huseby would make pretty apocalyptic statements regarding the issue in the letters to Elias, which also seemed to get overshadowed by the personal touch he was adding to the letter.
Huseby’s uses an apocalyptic tone throughout the first three quarters is an attempt to call the viewers to take immediate action on the issue. His ultimate message is that ocean acidification is real, dangerous problem, and people of all ages need to join together and take action before it’s too late. As passionate as Huseby is, he takes the apocalyptic tone too far. Viewers are left feeling as if this situation is hopeless and beyond repair. This unintended response to the film renders the film almost counterproductive. The only sense of optimism left with the viewer is that there are better sources of energy, like coastal windmill farms. There is no discussion on the possibility for sea organisms to adapt to the acidifying ocean. For example, coccolithophores have very short lifespans which enables them to go through the process of evolution much quicker.
Overall, the film does a very nice job laying out the causes and chemistry of ocean acidification as well as the potential negative effects of this process. It never deliberately skews the facts of the situation, but rather only gives one side of the story. Devil’s advocated is never really played throughout the course of the film. On top of all that, the film seeks to inspire people to take action but simply leaves them feeling as if the oceans are bound to take turn for the worse in the near future.
The environmental documentary, A Sea Change, employs multiple rhetorical devices in an attempt to both show viewers the dangers of ocean acidification and recruit their activism for a campaign against CO2 emissions. The film is filled with phrases like “massive changes of geologic scale” that are meant to highlight the magnitude of the issue. Dramatic music plays in parallel with images of fish and other colorful marine life to provide a foreboding tone when introducing the dangers of ocean acidification. Characters even recite personal anecdotes about how important fish were in their past, but none of these devices are as salient as the abundance of young people in the film. A Sea Change takes every opportunity possible to demonstrate the potential of the next generation.
Sven says early in the film that he is worried about the world Elias will be inheriting, but as a former educator, he understands the potential of Elias’s generation to make a change. He references the hipster generation and how their desire for change was noble and is still recognized today. He uses the hipster generation as an example of how passionate and energetic young people can be. In order to call upon the energy of the hipster generation, A Sea Change is filled with children. Elias’s curiosity and innocence is showcased in almost every scene. Whether it is his fascination with larger fish like whales and dolphins, or his intrigue about the tiny organisms in an isolated ecosystem, Elias enjoys marine life for its beauty and remains untouched by science and the knowledge that the ocean is not invulnerable. Elias’s role is supported by the daughter of the Pteropod researcher. When Sven and the researcher are discussing the “little water angels” the young girl gives her opinion on their appearance but obviously is uninvolved with the discussion about the dangers facing the Pteropods. This recurrent theme shows how children are still unaffected by the poison of politics and greed and how they can look past such mature topics into the true beauty of the ocean and ocean life. In this way, the film subtly makes the point that, while the adults in the world are already too used to the benefits of extreme CO2 emissions (cars, planes, trains, iron and steel) that they forget the importance of marine life, young people still have the ability to form their own opinions. They have to power to find new solutions for the need of a new generation. A Sea Change makes the point that the next generation has the ability to decide that the ocean is important. They have ability to change the infrastructure of the modern world to accommodate new needs and still end the worries of global warming and ocean acidification.
The end of the film supports this by introducing multiple current solutions to the CO2 problems. In addition to showing the availability of wind power in Sweden and America, it highlights a hotel that uses the energy in the ocean—rather than producing CO2 through combustion—to heat the entire facility. Finally, the young people motif returns to the forefront with the groundbreaking scene. This scene is perfect because it combines the energy of the high school students with the dream of a carbon-zero world. The image of one hundred students gathered to help provide a solution to the CO2 problems highlights the ability of the next generation to truly make a positive lasting impact on the world. Sven expresses his happiness with this beneficial project, and the audience of A Sea Change should share in his excitement.
A Sea Change was a great documentary in terms of presenting the dangers of ocean acidification to a general audience. Because the writers stayed away from the complicated science of ocean acidification, viewers are able to see the negative effects of it without being confused by the specifics. However, by simplifying everything the writers ended up with logical fallacies throughout the film. Whether on purpose or not, using these fallacies makes it difficult for viewers to have a thorough understanding of the situation.
One fallacy used extensively attacks both the emotion and logic of viewers. Pteropods are talked about frequently, and Sven makes sure to point out how beautiful and majestic they are. By showing how these small, fragile creatures are so negatively affected by ocean acidification, the writers take advantage of peoples’ soft spot for helpless animals. After getting to viewers’ emotions, the film continues to talk about pteropods and how they are a major part of salmon’s diet. A major chain reaction affecting salmon is talked about, going after viewers again because salmon are a much larger part of our lives than pteropods. However, the film fails to discuss the studies that show how salmon have adapted to eating other food sources in places where pteropod populations are diminished. By leaving these studies out, the film makes the loss of pteropods seem more destructive to our own lives.
Another thing the film oversimplifies multiple times is how much it would cost to fix the CO2 problem in America. Throughout the documentary, Sven is very interested in why nothing significant has been done to lessen our carbon emissions. According to multiple scientists, it would only take 2% of the GDP to solve the CO2 problems we are currently facing. When thrown out as a small percentage, this task seems much more attainable. However, what some people might not know is that the United State’s GDP for 2010 was roughly 14.5 trillion dollars. Simple math tells us that two percent of 14.5 trillion is approximately 290 billion dollars. With the economy and national debt the way it is, coming up with that much money in a responsible way would be very difficult to do. The scientists, and in turn the writers, would like people to believe it is much easier to solve the emissions problem than it actually is.
Overall, A Sea Change did a great job of outlining the present and potential problems caused by ocean acidification. The writers were definitely trying to present the movie to the average viewer, and by doing this used rhetorical fallacies quite often. Whether they did this on purpose is debatable, but considering the tone of the movie it is hard to believe it occurred accidentally. It is an informative movie for anyone interested in the ocean acidification topic, but some discretion is needed when accepting everything that is said.