Rob Stewart has now made another movie, Revolution. He started out intending it to be about save the oceans, but realized the issues were greater than that, and shifted his intent to saving the planet.
He describes the death of coral reefs, the threat of ocean acidification, the endless use of carbon fuels, the destruction caused by the Alberta Tar Sands, the impact of deforestation, the increase in coastal dead zones, and the occurrence of ‘death by climate change’. He joins and films the growing recognition by people, particularly young people, that action is needed now.
If you are new to some of this, then Revolution is worth seeing. It certainly has heart. It has won best documentary and audience favorite documentary at film festivals, and it is attempting to have a life in commercial theaters now.
Scattered through the film are some truly unusual and beautiful sequences – a spectacular and poisonous cuttlefish, delicate seahorses clicking their way around a branch of coral, Madagascar lemurs running in their bizarre sideways gallop, reminders of all that we stand to lose.
But a film about saving the planet is the hardest of all to make. The topic is huge, the possibilities for enticing narrative are very limited, the target audience difficult to identify, and the opportunities for depth and insight are limited. Even Al Gore’s famous film Inconvenient Truth struggled with the same problems.
Better to focus, I think, on an issue that perhaps represents the whole, but makes story telling possible, and allows time to dig into the issue. Stewart’s first film, Sharkwater, was like that, showing us the beauty of sharks and the ugly practice and devastating impact of shark-finning. It helped, and continues to help, in the efforts to regulate and ban shark-finning, even though the harvest goes on, and sharks remain under threat of extinction. Limited in scope, it is an effective film.
At the end of Revolution Stewart films some of the young people protesting the formal, closed meetings of the climate change conference, COP 16, held at Cancun in 2010. Their concerns were real, justified, and ignored, and emotions ran high.
This was just another protest, however, and not the beginning of any bottom-up revolution. The world continues with business-as-usual, unconvinced that catastrophe lies ahead, irritated with unpragmatic environmentalists.
Except that the predicted human upheaval and global insecurity associated with climate change are now worrying military and intelligence communities, as well as The World Bank. They are considering the probable yet somehow unthinkable consequences of the global temperature rising by 4 degrees, which is where we are headed unless major reductions are made in our CO2 emissions. This is an odd kind of hope – top-down ‘revolution’ is hardly an attractive prospect.
The best advice remains, as Will Rogers once said, and Bill McKibbon quotes concerning our current carbon-fueled rush toward a 4 degree increase: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.