Talking Point: Racing Extinction
In the last couple of weeks, two very different film projects have jolted me with messages of hope and despair, and made me reassess some family habits for the first time in a rather long while. It’s good to know art can do that… for there is some serious work to be done.
I used to care
Once upon a time I cared about the planet. I tried not to drive. I didn’t fly. I treated plastic bags like they were a lethal weapon. I read books about food miles and polar bears. And then..I kind of got distracted. Life with three young children got in the way. Scouts and rugby and music lessons and work and household bills and chores took over. I was too busy giving children lifts to ballet to worry about my carbon footprint. I was working and I needed to relax at the end of the day, not calculate my emissions. Then, in the last few weeks, two very different film projects reminded me that I have taken my eye off the planet.
“Oh the land, oh the sea, oh the things we have seen” – Sea Breeze
Everything is memory
The first was a theatrical spectacular in a closed down theatre in a run down British seaside town. The Winter Gardens in Morecambe once hummed to the strains of Elgar. It once laughed to Morecambe and Wise. It once balanced a circus troop in its auditorium. It was made to last; it was built to hold an elephant. But it didn’t survive modern life. These days this late Victorian music hall theatre is filled only with the sound of the wind, and the ghosts of the people who lived in the town or came in on the railways. But recently it sang. And danced. And became the lead character in its own story. The projections of Imitating the Dog and the words of Elizabeth Willow and Jonathon Raisin, along with live music and an invisible choir, breathed new breath into this decaying theatre in a haunting production called Sea Breeze. Save me, it cried out. Save my memories and ambitions and dreams. Before I die. And death, as we all know is final. There is no coming back from extinction.
“Everything is memory. Things blur. A film. The world. A film of it. The echoes of a song.” – Sea Breeze
Projections of the past give me hope for the future
“Sometimes the sea comes in from under the stage.” I think that is true in my life and wonder how many of the rest of us are unaware of the river in their cellar. Over that hour in that theatre, I believed that the auditorium was filled with water, I reached out as if to touch the hologram circus artist and felt the breeze from the skirts of the woman cleaning the stalls. I believed that the process of decay and change had been halted. That the gods could be restored to their former majesty. That our carelessness, and our insatiable appetite for new things could be halted. That we were guardians of our past, and angels watching over our future.
Over an hour in this crumbling seaside town, in those projections of cascading water and rippling waves and ornate balconies, I saw a better future for my kids. And it gave me hope. Perhaps the cellar can be pumped. Or at least tanked.
“I remember it. I am the memory of it…” – Sea Breeze
Racing Extinction – Protecting Our Planet
A few days later I saw another projection. A mirror image, magnified by infinity. Instead of a cold, dark theatre in Morecambe I was looking at a global stage. This stage wasn’t a crumbling auditorium but the United Nations Assembly in New York, in the midst of the UN Climate Summit 2014.
In the short film illUmiNations, produced by the makers of a new film Racing Extinction, projectors beamed a message of hope and despair onto the futuristic United Nations Headquarters. The skyline, and indeed the UN departments were lit up with endangered species. This was also a song of the sea, but of the sky, and the earth too. And it was also a message of warning. Another cry for help. There was no circus elephant here; instead wolves and monkeys and tree frogs were the characters. Characters that, according to the latest reports from the World Wildlife Fund, are being killed off faster than a production of Hamlet.
“It’s better to light one candle than curse the darkness” – Protecting our Planet.
illUmiNations ‘Protecting our Planet’ projected a vision of the sea. And the rainforest. And heavy industry. And a massive carbon dioxide spike that we are all causing. It warned of mass extinction through warming oceans and melting ice-caps. It broadcast it all on a skyscraper; a symbol of humanity’s progress. But like Sea Breeze, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. While it pointed out we are lost; it suggested we could still find our way. We may be racing extinction but we haven’t lost the race. Not yet.
“If we all lose hope there is no hope. Without hope, people fall into apathy.” – Primatologist Jane Goodall – ‘Protecting our Planet’
The message was the same
Of course, you can’t compare a tiny Victorian theatre with a planet. But the message was essentially the same. This is our heritage. It is dying. You can help extinguish it. Or you can do something to stop its decay. Neither the theatre in Morecambe or the planet we live in are dead yet. Neither of them are a memory. Yet. They are still clinging on.
“I was once a theatre. I will always be a theatre” – Sea Breeze
But we need to act now. As anyone who steps out onto the shifting sands at Morecambe Bay knows, nature can be a powerful enemy and if we don’t tread carefully she can swallow us up. But we aren’t powerless. We have a hand in the future. Unlike our children and grandchildren who may be forced into a corner, dealing with the consequences of our actions.
So what could I do?
I used to think I could make a difference. And then somewhere in the fog of motherhood I forgot. But the overwhelming response to our recent post and video on the dolphin hunts in Taiji reminded me that one family’s actions can have an impact on the status quo. And these two films reinforce that message. It isn’t too late to start saving our heritage. I decide to reassess our family habits. I bring up the subject of Meat Free Mondays. I give Matthew permission to go vegetarian. We look at a local cycling tour in October rather than another foreign trip. And I get my bike out of the shed. Why is it even in the shed?
So what can you do?
Save your theatre. Save your planet. Save your family and the world’s species from extinction. It’s a big ask isn’t it? I’m not sure I am up to it. But I could easily cut down on my carbon footprint a little. Could you? Watch illUmiNations and see if it inspires you to get on your bike. And leave us a comment with your thoughts and reactions.