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 film A Sea Change provides an interesting example of the rhetorical strategies that people use to talk about the topic of ocean acidification. The members of mainstream media often use scare tactics such as apocalyptic framing to catch the attention of an audience and make their message sink in. A Sea Change starts out with a very apocalyptic tone but quickly uses the sentimental appeal of the protagonist’s family and grandchildren to make the issue even more heart felt to give added influence to the suggestions that the film ends with. The rhetorical strategies used by the director of A Sea Change are intended to motivate viewers to take action against ocean acidification.
Different rhetorical strategies have very different effects on audiences; the group of them used in A Sea Change seem to succeed in their goal of influencing audiences to take action. The movie opens up with a series of interviews with scientists and other authorities who use phrases like “mass extinction” and “dangerous territory”, and make statement including “within 50 years all coral may disappear” and “Are we screwed? Yeah”. The purpose of these statements at the beginning of the film is a scare tactic to capture the attention of any viewer. Very few people find it easy to ignore a large group of scientists telling them that they are going to die or that the world is coming to an end. The prediction of a problem leading to the end of the world as we know it is called apocalyptic framing. Once the viewers are hooked, the director of the movie then switches over to an emotional appeal by introducing the grandson of the protagonist. The idea of a questionable future for innocent children around the world is the main motivational part of A Sea Change. People do not want to feel responsible for a bleak future for others, especially if they have or plan to have children of their own. So what can these concerned viewers do to help? Once again the director changes gears and begins to focus on current efforts to reduce the causes of ocean acidification. The examples given include a hotel that has a heating and cooling system that produces no CO2 emissions. Perhaps the more eye catching example is the wind-turbine company. This example is important because it suggests to the viewers that by investing in this company or a similar one they can make money while promoting clean energy that could lead to an end in ocean acidification. The director of A Sea Change uses rhetoric to present a very compelling story about ocean acidification.
The rhetoric of A Sea Change follows a logical progression that allows it to have an increased effect on viewers. The apocalyptic framing draws people in, once they are hooked the director makes an emotional appeal by discussing what could happen for future generations, finally she tells the viewers what they have to do to save the oceans. Maybe this combination of strategies will help the film to be more successful than so many other articles and journals on the topic. Hopefully it will get the public support that is needed to stop ocean acidification.
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.