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.
As a documentary film, A Sea Change introduces ocean acidification as an overlooked trend that accompanies the rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Because the film is intended for the general audience that is untrained in the subjects of ocean chemistry and ecology, the producers do utilize numerous rhetorical fallacies rarely seen within the academic setting in order to convey its message clearly. One of the rhetorical fallacies employed consistently over the course of the movie is a faulty analogy between our current situation with ocean acidification and a catastrophic or near-catastrophic crisis in past history.
In one of the interviews, an advocate for combating climate change discusses about how the United States and whole population of Earth in general should go about confronting this rising threat to our oceanic ecosystems. He believed that the key is to inform the public of the presence of this problem and ways they can help reduce their carbon footprint on a daily basis. He then refers to the days of the Cold War when schools would hold bomb drills in preparation for a nuclear war actually erupting between the United States and Russia. Although the analogy about how to properly educate the public of an issue and equip them with the tools to deal with it is valid, the comparison between the effects of ocean acidification and a nuclear war is a clearly a rhetorical fallacy.
The consequences of a nuclear bomb on humans are unquestionable as seen with the droppings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the conclusion of World War 2. Within the blast radius, human flesh along with every building simply melted away, leaving very little trace afterwards. Further away from the impact, communities were devastated by the radiation levels, rapidly adding to the death tolls. But with ocean acidification, the ramifications on the average person are uncertain and surely not imminent. Many calcifying species have been shown in laboratory studies to falter and die off when the pH was decreased to simulate the circumstances in the oceans. But on the ecosystem level, scientists are still in debate about the exact fate of the world’s coral reefs or other oceanic ecosystems. Even if entire communities of aquatic species were to go extinct, humans would mostly be unaffected except through the fishing and tourism industries. The mass annihilation of human lives from a possible nuclear war overshadows in magnitude the impact of ocean acidification on mankind.
To a viewer uneducated about ocean acidification, faulty analogies would certainly alarm him or her about this mostly un-publicized phenomenon and spur him or her to research more about it. But to a viewer who has prior knowledge in the biological sciences or came across this issue before, faulty analogies would discredit the movie in the eyes of the educated viewer. But the producer’s intended audience is the former type, so faulty analogies and other types of rhetorical fallacies would assist in raising awareness of ocean acidification among the general public.
The documentary film, A Sea Change, utilizes a myriad of strategical techniques to convey the urgent message of ocean acidification. The film was mainly targeted to those of little to none scientific or technical knowledge of ocean acidification, and the film took advantage of this situation to produce an influential message. The different usages of rhetorical fallacies were in place to create a sense of awareness in both the caring and ignorant communities about the negative effects of ocean acidification. However, some of the rhetorical fallacies that were implemented was counterproductive in conveying the overall message and exasperated those who are skeptical of the negative effects of ocean acidification.
Many of the rhetorical fallacies that were implemented throughout the film attacked the audience’s emotion and logic. There were many scenes in the film that presented an aesthetically pleasing picture of ocean organisms swimming unrestrained in a clean environment, which were then followed by a poignant scene of death or harmed creatures. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the film maker is trying to convey a message; however, I also understand that the conveyed message is riding on the emotion of the audience. The technique is trying to make the audience have a sense of guilt and disdain toward what is happening to organisms exposed in acidifying oceans in hopes increasing their concern for ocean acidfication – but hey! isn’t this what everyone does who wants to convey a message to try influence people in the direction that they want them to be influenced! Again, I am just being aware of their strategies.
As for an additional note, according to the rhetorical fallacies document under logical fallacies, stacked evidence distorts the issue by presenting only one side of the story. Throughout the film, there wasn’t a single scene or conversation that presented the “other side” of ocean acidification. The entire film targeted the negative effects of an acidifying ocean. The film presented information about dissolving shells and rotting teeth; however, the film did not mention that increased levels of carbon dioxide could in fact increase calcification in some species, or how some species are more productive in the presence of high levels of carbon dioxide near the surface of the ocean. Even if the overall negative effects of ocean acidification outnumbers the positive trends, the film maker could have made this film more effective by presenting both sides of the story.
Again, I understand the film maker’s intent of using the rhetorical fallacies that the film used, but many of them augmented the skepticism that some of the audience may have possessed.
A Sea Change was unique in the delivery of its message. Using a combination of interviews, conversations, and other dialogue, the film aimed to make the general public aware of the problem of ocean acidification. The message of the film was sent loud and clear—many of its points were made with rhetorical fallacies and dramatic dialogue. Nevertheless, the film was successful in making its audience aware of the problem.
The grandfather-grandson relationship between Sven and Elias is used to make ocean acidification come across as a personal issue. Since most of the general public may not understand the urgency of a “scientific” problem, it is made out to be more emotional. This type of emotional rhetoric is first used in the title: A Sea Change: Imagine A World Without Fish. Imagining a world without fish is nearly impossible, and thus draws a reaction from viewers. Sven seemed to be less concerned with the problem itself, and more anxious about how Elias would have to combat the issue and live with it. Additionally, as Sven reflects, he talks about earlier years when he lived by the water and fish and the ocean in general were a big part of his life. While many cannot grasp what it really means for carbon dioxide to change the acidity of the ocean, concerns for younger generations and the idea of fish and the ocean as important parts of everyday life are much more relatable.
The entire narrative of the film was very one-sided. It warned the public and stated the problem but did not strongly state a solution. One line, in particular, struck me; Sven was speaking to a professional about the issue and was asking him questions. Sven asked, “Are we screwed”—there is no attempt to make the problem any less intense than it is and using a frank phrase like that makes people stop and listen. I believe this line represents a rhetorical fallacy; throughout the rest of the film, Sven urges the audience to take initiative and try to stop or slow down the problem. By asking if we are screwed, a negative outlook is displayed, as if it is already too late to bother attempting to fix the problem.
The film does not demonstrate enough confidence in its audience. Sven says in the film, “What we can’t see, we pollute.” This portrays the public as negligent and unconcerned. Although many may not be aware of the specific implications of ocean acidification, I believe it is unfair to generalize with a statement like that. There are plenty of caring people who play a small, yet vital role in eco-friendly initiatives every day. Overall, I think the film could have done a better of job of making the public aware without alienating the viewers.