The Top 6 Environmental Films for Beginners

We’ve compiled the top 6 environmental films for beginners. Are you an environmentalist looking for something new to watch? Writing an essay on climate change and don’t want to do any proper research? Having a movie date with your eco-friendly significant other? Looking to improve your knowledge of eco-inspired cinema? All of the above? Look no further.

First off, a quick tip; don’t put on The Day After Tomorrow.

  1. Princess Mononoke
  2. Before The Flood
  3. Chasing Coral
  4. The True Cost
  5. The Return of Navajo Boy
  6. Koyaanisqatsi

PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997), dir. by Hayao Miyazaki

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Possibly the best film to come out of Studio Ghibli until Spirited Away stole the limelight. The tale of hotheaded San, (the eponymous Princess Mononoke – Mononoke roughly meaning ‘vengeful spirit’ – which in this case is true), and reticent prince Ashitaka may not seem like an environmental film at first glance – a film filled with magic and spirits – who take the form of thinking, speaking animals, or ‘Forest Gods’, protecting the land they are a part of. San herself was taken in by the wolf god Moro as a child, and rides her similarly massive pups into battle with the leader of the nearby Iron Town, Lady Eboshi.

Princess Mononoke itself is constructed from a tangled web of interconnected themes, voiced expertly by a set of characters that each get their own specific screen time, thoughts, and narrative. This allows the viewer’s allegiances to change with every new line. Essentially, the workers of Iron Town want to tame and ‘destroy’ the forest gods, which will allow them to mine iron and produce capital with no interference – something the forest gods are, quite obviously, not happy about. Meanwhile Ashitaka, who at the beginning of the film fights with a demon boar and is cursed because of it, simultaneously searches for a cure for his curse while trying to create peace between the warring factions.

The most evident and overarching theme is that of progress vs. conservation – how does a human community survive, thrive, and improve it’s technological prowess without hurting the environment it exploits to further that progress? That question is only half answered in a very roundabout way – after the Forest Spirit gets it’s head severed from it’s body, spewing toxic sentient goo over the whole forest which kills everything it touches, the humans decide they need to rethink their relationship with the thing which ultimately gives them life: Life itself.

It’s beautifully written, funny and sad in equal measures, has some of most insanely gorgeous artistry of any Ghibli film, and has a wonderfully-strong female lead, and a male lead who doesn’t muscle in, acting as a stirring vision of calm masculinity (even if he has a demonic arm). Also, and this may seem controversial, but if you’re not a Japanese speaker, we prefer the dubbed version, with stellar voice acting from Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Billy Bob Thornton, and Minnie Driver. The subtitled version is good, but the translated lines of the dubbed version evoke a lot more beauty.

BEFORE THE FLOOD (2016) dir. by Fisher Stevens

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Actor-turned-environmentalist Leonardo Dicaprio heads up this 96 minute long environmental documentary. Fresh-faced but still bearded from filming The Revenant in 2015, DiCaprio presents the devastating impacts of climate change as they are happening, questioning as he goes humanity’s ability to reverse arguable the biggest problem we have ever faced.

The reason we add this film to the list is because of the impact DiCaprio has as both an auteur and a hollywood A-lister – who else do you think would have been able to interview both Barack Obama and the Pope in single film? Not us. Not through lack of experience we must add, but simply because DiCaprio’s name bears weight.

The film itself does not present much by the way of resolutions to the issues we face, but does a great job of visualising these issues. The film is shot over a period of three years, as DiCaprio talks to activists and dignitaries alike, from Greenland to the USA to Kiribati. He translates the complex scientific issues into easily-digestible bites, which through the film’s tone, sincerity, and cinematography, retain some of their actual bite.

The film itself isn’t groundbreaking and the choppy, Hollywood-esque cuts sometimes distract you from forming an emotional connection to what is on screen, or from receiving a suckerpunch of eco-anxious revelation. It has a few scenes that are definitely noteworthy, such as the conversation with astronaut Dr. Piers Sellers, and does a good job at providing bite-size morsels that present a much bigger, bleaker picture. A good film for beginners.

CHASING CORAL (2017) dir. Jeff Orlowski

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Coral reefs. They occupy less than 1% of the Earth’s oceanic area, but provide a home for at least a quarter of all marine animals. They are also dying. Jeff Orlowski’s Chasing Coral sees a group of divers, scientists, and photographers from across the globe attempt to document this loss.

It’s a truly remarkable thing to see, timelapses of coral bleaching, dying, and decaying. We wouldn’t recommend this film for the date, it can be a little bleak at times. Yet, this is where Chasing Coral succeeds – it does a grand job of melting together voices, emotions, and hard facts.

Essentially, the oceans are the biggest heat traps and always have been, and as global temperatures rise the oceans get warmer and warmer. Coral, which acts as a home for some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, is very suited to particular temperatures. As the seawater warms, the corals bleach. This is a stress response, meaning that the corals eject all of the microscopic plant-life that gives them their colour, causing them to go bright white. The corals can sometimes survive in this situation, but the plant-life acts as their main source of nutrition, and more often then not, this bleaching will eventually lead to death.

Chasing Corals is a well-shot, well-paced film. It lacks in breadth, which is not an inherently bad thing. Too often environmental films try to focus on ‘all’ the issues, ending up lacking in crucial evidence. Furthermore, this can also help to overwhelm and alienate the viewer, presenting environmental issues as insurmountable problems. In its sole on the issue of coral, this film succeeds in presenting a well-rounded approach on a singular focus.

THE TRUE COST (2015) dir. by Andrew Morgan

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Not simply an environmental documentary, The True Cost also looks into the social aspects of fast fashion; the exploitation, the consumerism, and how it all fits into global capitalism. This isn’t a tale of groundbreaking designers or fabulous models, it’s a documentary on the very beginnings of commodified and damaging haute couture.

Director Andrew Morgan was drawn to the subject after the Dhaka building collapse in 2013, where a commercial building in Bangladesh crumbled and killed over a thousand workers. These workers had been subjected to unsafe working conditions, and we’re also part of a business that manufactured for big brands such as Prada, Gucci, and Versace amongst others.

The film explores the structural poverty that comes with the fast fashion industry, looking at the unsafe conditions many workers face and how the environmental cost of the industry affects poor communities, further hinting at issues of institutionalised and environmental racism.

One of the most poignant and shocking parts of the film focuses on Indian-grown cotton. Demand for the crop led to the planting of genetically-modified cotton by larger companies, pushing the price up, leading to a number of suicides by smaller, traditional cotton farmers. The GM crops themselves needed more pesticides, leading to ecosystem damage and birth defects amongst newborns in the local Punjab population.

The main themes that run through the film are of exploitation and disposability – and not simply disposability of fashion, throwing away a top after a few wears – we are talking about the disposability of human lives and environmental security. To engage with this film is to realise that there is something truly wrong with where we source the very shirts on our collective backs. You may have spent £25 on it, but what is the true cost?

THE RETURN OF NAVAJO BOY (2000) dir. by Jeff Spitz

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Released in 2000, The Return of Navajo Boy deals with an incredibly important, but unfortunately little spoken- about issue in the modern environmentalism movement. That is the issue of environmental racism.

Environmental racism is essentially a concept that explores environmental injustices that are carried out, either through practice or through policy, with a racialised context. Think of the American Bison, who were hunted to near extinction in the 1870s by the American army in an effort to force Native Americans off of their homelands.

In the context of The Return of Navajo Boy, we see the story of the Cly family, through them exploring the unregulated mining of uraniam in Monument Valley, Utah, and how it has caused illness. It raises key issues of white supremacy, political representation, and reparation denial, all within the context of environmentally-unfriendly policy. It is a film steeped in sadness, and a must-watch.

KOYAANISQATSI (1982) dir. by Godfrey Reggio

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The word ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ is a Hopi word that roughly translates to ‘life of moral corruption or turmoil’. It’s a phrase that should be on the viewer’s mind while watching.

The film is the most experimental and ephemeral of those on this list and is more art than documentary. It is an 86 minute-long visual tone poem, consisting of slow-motion or timelapse imagery of cities and landscapes across the United States. If there was ever a film to convince us of Timothy Morton’s philosophical view of ecology and environmentalism, that humans need to be convinced that they live ‘inside’ climate change, rather than climate change being something that is in ‘another place’, this is it.

It’s essentially an instrumental piece. There is no dialogue to be heard, save for choral chanting in Hopi. The music is a score by American composer Philip Glass. Explaining the choice of no dialogue, director Godfrey Reggio said, “it’s not for lack of love of the language that these films have no words. It’s because, from my point of view, our language is in a state of vast humiliation. It no longer describes the world in which we live.” Eat your heart out Timothy Morton.

Reggio said of the film that “it is up [to] the viewer to take for himself/herself what it is that [the film] means.”, adding that “these films have never been about the effect of technology, of industry on people. It’s been that everyone: politics, education, things of the financial structure, the nation state structure, language, the culture, religion, all of that exists within the host of technology. So it’s not the effect of, it’s that everything exists within [technology]. It’s not that we use technology, we live technology. Technology has become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe …”

The film ends with a translation of three Hopi prophecies, which are chanted in their original language earlier in the film, the most poignant of which reads: “A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.”

Maybe not the best film for a date.

SPECIAL MENTIONS

Into The Wild (2007), Interstellar (2014)Minimalism (2016), The 11th Hour (2007), Chasing Ice (2012), Climate Refugees (2010), Cowspiracy (2014), Under The Dome (2015), Erin Brockovich (2000), Silent Running (1972), WALL-E (2008), Pom Poko (1994), Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind (1984).

Deeply Good’s Climate Change Playlist

Here it is, the first instalment of our curated mixtape, featuring songs from many different genres. Their one uniting theme? They are all inspired by, and are artistic responses to, climate change.

The Climate Change Playlist #1‘ (Yes, there will be more), contains genres that range from folk, classic rock, to hip hop and even electronic genres such as techno and industrial. When researching for this playlist, we were met with an avalanche of environmentalism-inspired songs, but understood that to create a playlist that sounded like a mixtape, we would have to consider which songs to keep in, and which songs to leave out.

Hopefully we have created something that flows nicely, something to work to, or to chill out with while travelling, or even sitting with a cup of tea. It’s up to you. From The 1975 and Greta Thunberg, to Björk, to Childish Gambino, to Thom Yorke, to Led Zeppelin and Bon Iver, we hope you enjoy.

As always, some songs will be more relevant than others, but it is up to you to figure out which ones you connect with the most. Why not send us your thoughts via our twitter @deeplygoodmag?

 

 

 

‘Food in the Anthropocene’: new ‘plant-focused’ diet could save the planet

A new diet report, created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, has been proposed as a diet that could both poor global nutrition and avert environmental disaster caused by present-day food production methods.

The report states, “Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.”

Key tenets of the diet include a radical change in food production, a great reduction in red meat consumption in traditional western diets, and a reduction in sugar consumption.

“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts.” said Prof. Walter Willet, one of the leaders of the commission. “Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

The main bulk of the report itself is devoted to three sections, the goal, the targets, and the strategies. The goal stated by the EAT-Lancet Commission is ‘To achieve planetary health diets for nearly 10 billion people by 2050″. The targets include and require red meat and sugar consumption to be cut in half globally, while the consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, and nuts, must double. This range is not universal, but geographically specific, stating that instead of halving their red meat intake, North Americans need to eat 84% less, and up their bean and lentil consumption six times. In Europe, we must reduce our red meat consumption by 77%.

The report is wise in it’s differing estimations, noting that “some populations worldwide depend on agropastoral livelihoods and animal protein from livestock. In addition, many populations continue to face significant burdens of undernutrition and obtaining adequate quantities of micronutrients from plant source foods alone can be difficult” 

The introduction of the report stated that their were four scenarios that could develop in the future; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. According to the scientists behind the report, win-win would prevent the deaths of 11 million people worldwide, and prevent the collapse of the natural world, which is currently under an immense amount of pressure.

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An example of the plant-focused, flexitarian plates that the report endorses. Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

Our global food system is inherently broken, with distribution favouring wealthier countries, who both consume more than they need, and waste much. There are also issues with physical production, in terms of the environmental degradation caused by overfishing, and the footprint of the meat industry. Reducing meat and dairy products, or avoiding them altogether, may be the greatest way the individual can reduce their environmental footprint.

In a report published by Springmann et al, it was stated that a 90% drop in red meat consumption and reductions in other meat categories were essential to introduce into our lifestyles in an attempt to avoid the effects of climate breakdown.

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, another author of the report. “[This requires] nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.” The ‘planetary health diet’ strongly recommends only one portion of red meat per week, the size of an average beefburger, and stresses that most protein should come from plant alternatives. The steep rise in plant-based and vegan diets in the last two years has shown that, at least in western countries, this change in protein source is highly possible, and no longer a ‘radical’ idea.

Willett emphasises that this is not a diet of ‘depravation’, but rather “a way of eating that can be healthy, flavourful and enjoyable.”

To keep in line with the 2C limit of global warming set by the Paris Agreement we can assume that “world agriculture will transition toward sustainable food production, leading to a shift from land use being a net source of carbon to becoming a net sink of carbon. “

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“Actions considered for reducing environmental impacts from food production.” Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

“Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience.” said Prof. Johan Rockström, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Stockholm Resilience Centre. “It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”

In all, the report advocates the ‘Great Food Transformation’. “The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. Delaying action will only increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences. ” The report outlines five strategies for this immense change:

  1. Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets
  2. Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food
  3. Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output
  4. Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans
  5. At least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals

The report goes on to state that food will be the “defining issue of the 21st Century”. Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas, editors at Lancet, wrote “Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”

 

 

 

 

Record numbers sign up for Veganuary 2019

Veganuary. The month that people dedicate to changing up their diet by consuming solely plant-based, vegan produce. With people entering 2019 with the phrase ‘new year, new me’ rooted deeply in their mindset, will we see them sticking to the change of diet?

This year, record numbers have signed up to the Veganuary pledge, with over 250,000 from 193 countries signing up. On Sunday 30th December 2018, 14,000 people signed up at a rate of one every six seconds.

2018 saw a real boom in the rise of veganism, with numbers of products available and adherents to the vegan lifestyle increasing exponentially.

“In 2018 there hasn’t been a week that has gone by without veganism hitting the headlines, whether it is a magazine editor being fired or Waitrose launching a new range of products,” said Rich Hardy, Head of Campaigns at Veganuary.

“Vegan products are getting a lot better and it is becoming a lot more convenient to have a tasty plant-based diet.”

One of the reasons for the surge in active members in the vegan community has been the warnings from scientists across the globe about the damage meat production and consumption has on the living planet, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the industry creates each year.

A report published in 2014 called ‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in the UK‘, noted that the average emissions of meat eaters was 7.19kgCO2e/day compared to 2.89kgCO2e/day for those who consumed a vegan diet. In May 2018, an incredibly comprehensive analysis of the impact of animal agriculture was published, which stated that avoiding animal products was the single most productive way to reduce an individual’s environmental footprint.

‘Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s land use by 3.1 (2.8-3.3) billion hectares (a 76% reduction), including a 19% reduction in arable land; food’s GHG emissions by 6.6 (5.5-7.4) billion metric tons of CO2eq (a 49% reduction); acidification by 50% (45-54%); eutrophication by 49% (37-56%); and scarcity-weighted freshwater withdrawals by 19%.’

Recently, delegates who attended the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland were reprimanded for the menu served in the food court on site, a menu very high in meat-based products.

A third of UK consumers say they have deliberately reduced the amount of meat they eat, or excluded it from their diet entirely, according to the supermarket chain Waitrose. in 2018, one in eight Britons declared themselves as either vegetarian or vegan. 21% participate in a flexitarian diet, which is where a mostly plant-based diet is sometimes supplemented by meat, dairy, or fish.

Joseph Poore, of Oxford University, who led the research, said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth – not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Veganuary’s site states that the three main reasons to practice veganism are animal welfare, health, and environmental protection. It offers a practical explanation of all three reasons, including recommendations for videos, articles, discussions, and a list of vegan myths they take the time to dispel. There is also a ‘vegan starter kit’, advice on where to eat out, and a hundreds of recipes.

While Veganuary grows in numbers, environmentalists are worried that it will be hard to promote this lifestyle to the majority of people within the small time-frame that we have left to tackle climate breakdown.

‘Though dietary change is realistic for any individual, widespread behavioral change will be hard to achieve in the narrow timeframe remaining to limit global warming and prevent further, irreversible biodiversity loss.’

 

£80m Eden Project North set to open in Morecambe in 2022

A proposed attracting may be coming to Morecambe in autumn 2022, which would be the latest addition to the Eden Project; Eden Project North, an £80m environmental attraction which will purportedly bring in up to 8,000 visitors a day.

Eden Project North will be comprised of a number of indoor and outdoor experiences, all set around or within a series of ‘biomes’, styled around mussels, a species that Morecambe is well known for. These biomes will house a number of different ecosystems.

Dave Harland, chief executive of Eden Project International Limited, said: “We’re incredibly proud to present our vision for Eden Project North and hope that the people of Morecambe and the surrounding area are as excited about it as we are.

“We aim to reimagine what a seaside destination can offer, with a world-class tourist attraction that is completely in tune with its natural surroundings.”

The hope for Eden Project North is that it will connect the local community to the internationally-significant natural environment of Morecambe Bay, creating a better understanding of natural environments and their fragility, and to also hopefull foster a better sense of well-being in the area.

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An artist’s impression of Eden Project North, a proposed new attraction for Morecambe . Credit: Grimshaw Architects

Grimshaw Architects, the organisation responsible for  the world-famous Rainforest and Mediterranean Biomes, have designed the Morecambe-based structures with its focus on the marine environment.

The project is also being seen through by its partners the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council. Lancaster City Council plan to invest £250,000 in the project.

Group leader and Labour Cllr Eileen Blamire said “We have all been impressed and enormously excited by the emerging proposals for Eden Project North. If this scheme happens it will have a transformative impact for Morecambe and the wider area.

“Eden Project North meets the criteria in terms of the Eden Project mission” Said Nick Bellamy, head of Eden Project International.

“To have all of this come together with support from Lancaster University, the city and county councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and other bodies is really rare, but very welcome.”

“2019 will be the year that this project really takes off. We’d hope to have full planning permission by 2020, and to be open in the third quarter of 2022.”

The front line of environments affected by climate breakdown will be coastal areas who will be at risk of flooding from rising sea levels. These are also areas where 17% of the UK population lives, and to draw attention to the fragility of those environments will be nothing but good.

“Our project in Cornwall was about the connection between humans and plants, and Eden Project North is about our connection with the marine and aquatic environment.” Said Bellamy.

“It will also be about health and wellbeing and that link to coastal communities, and how we can understand that better.”

“We’ve got an incredible vision for this place, and the question is, are you with us?”

You can find out more information on the projects of Eden Project International here.

 

 

 

 

 

See the ice before it is gone: Olafur Eliasson brings Arctic icebergs to London

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.

The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.

More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.

The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.

The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”

The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.

“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”

Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”

“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”

The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.

The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.

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An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.

What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.

Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.

Find more information here.

Environmentalism and club music: Inside the world of Eco-Grime

You may not have realised, but there has been an incredibly long trend of environmentalism within music. Tracks like ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ by John Denver, ‘Earth Song’ by Michael Jackson, and ‘Blackened’ by Metallica all represent the influential wave of environmentalism (If we conveniently forget the hunting passions of Metallica frontman James Hetfield).

Classical music has always had a strong connection to the living planet. From Vivaldi’s lush, sweeping, magnificent Four Seasons, to the more contemporary classical, such as John Cage’s ‘Child Of Tree’, in which the composer amplifies the sound of cactus and pea pod shakers to add to the timbre of the piece. More obviously an environmental piece is Ludovico Einaudi’s 2016 ‘Elegy For The Arctic’ – a stunningly beautiful piano composition, which you can watch below. What makes this recording even more awesome and shocking is Einaudi plays while on a raft, as large chunks of ice break off the glacier around him and tumble into the water. It’s almost as if nature is supplying the percussion to it’s own destruction.

Now environmentalism, or the inspiration that comes from the living planet, has seeped into the realms of contemporary electronic music. The netlabel Eco Futurism Corporation – a group of forward thinking artists and producers, have even come up with a name for the genre, and it is exciting: Eco-Grime.

Eco Futurism Corporations is a label dedicated to artists such as HERBARIUM, tropical interface, SHYQA, Gem Thee, LORD Ø, and soullets, and proclaims itself as ‘Wrapping ‘anti-club’ tunes and abrasive sound design around CGI-inflected visions of the organic.‘ Our first listens have introduced us to a rapturous, mutating, bio-mechanical, elated, and yet also dark, twisting anthemic landscapes. This is no everyday club music. It is the cousins of Bjørk’s 2016 album, Utopia, produced by both the Icelandic auteur and the Venezuelan producer Arca, which proved to be a scintillating look at when an album surpasses itself to become a soundscape, sort of a aural version of the lengths Tolkien went to in creating Middle Earth (a work itself steeped in environmentalism), and just as intricate. These artists make their own languages.

These languages entertain multiple stories; the wilful destruction of humanity by AI in an effort to save nature, the evolution of animals to survive off plastic, the discovery of human life being the evolution of biological contaminants left behind by extraterrestrial travellers, a.k.a. ‘Garbage Theory’. The stories, while surrounded by beautiful, fragile melodies and samples, are themselves dark and foreboding. These are the inventions of the Eco-Grime proponents, inspired themselves by ecological themes, crafting music to score the slow and wilful eradication of the living planet by the consumptions of modern life.

Sounds of chimes, birdsong, waterfall, the chirps and chirrups of birds, insects, and other creatures. The music of these artists present full and biodiverse environments of sound, championing the natural samples they compose around. Like the water used in many of the tracks, these artists have fluidity. The soundscapes ebb and flow into one another while remaining very much autonomous. It is exciting stuff to listen to.

“Roots of such ecologist utopias unconsciously existed all this time in the field of eastern way of harmony with surrounding against western anthropocentrism, which crystallized into architecture, infrastructure design, human relationships and many other things, including Eco Futurism Corporation.” The label explained about it’s origins in an interview.

“It’s expressed in samples from cult films of the future like “Blade Runner” or “GITH” and ends with the title tracks. From the other side, eco futurism have a positive outlook for the future, utopia, the opposite post-apocalyptic and alternative to cyberpunk. We suggest another way.” EFC shares on the influences of eco-futurism expressed within their work.

In a Facebook post about their album, ВЕЖЕСТЬ (Freshness), HERBARIUM wrote “The main idea is to immerse the listener in different scenes using the contrasts between artificially created effects, ‘computer’ synths, and common sounds that surround you in real life. The process is more like painting; I’m trying to create a unique atmosphere for each track and transform it into dynamic futuristic collage.” This phrase seems to be emblematic of the whole subgenre itself.

The Ecomodern series, a mixture of different contributing artists, is itself an incredibly biological work, a work that would class itself as symbiotic. It is not a mixtape, it is an ecosystem. The track ‘eco world’ by tropical interface could itself act as the grim anthem of this movement, containing an artificial voice that declares “Welcome to the new world, the world of ecological future / High technological artificial intelligence had to take over nature to exterminate humanity, because nature has a higher priority than humanity.” This mixes with powerful beats, trickling water sounds, and undulating synth beds that project a sort of serenity that jars with the AI’s proclamation. It almost surrenders you to this hypothesised end to humanity. The soundscape created helps you to accept.

Earlier this year, Prague-based label Genot Centre released a limited-edition cassette of Plastisphere by the Finnish producer Forces. Within the work, EDM is deconstructed into a medium that can be used to explore the lives of organisms who have been affected by climate breakdown, most specifically, plastic pollution. Eco-grime seems to focus itself as mood board, mirror, and social commentary on the environmental catastrophes we face. In an interview, Forces said “I don’t know what would be the solution out of this mess we have made. I can only try to circumvent the issue with my music and art.” Plastisphere was created in part in reaction  to an ecological disaster near his home, where toxic cyanobacteria blooms grew off the Scandinavian coast, rendering swimming in those waters impossible.

The Eco-Grime movement is constructed of a thriving community of artists and auteurs, who are currently pushing against the creative grey areas of underground club music, representing the more contemporary, niche side of environmental advocacy. Whether it is a city commute, an afternoon desk-bound work, a casual jaunt through a local green area, the environments that this movement creates are ones well worth getting lost in.

For an in-depth look at key Eco-Grime tracks, check this article from Bandcamp Daily.

 

 

Eco-cities: Ideas to make our cities greener

More cycling and walking infrastructure. More greenery. Less cars. Commitment to sourcing renewable energy. There is a plethora of activities a city can undertake to create a green haven, increasing public health and quality of life. Deeply Good takes a look at some of the cities and some of the good ideas that can turn a city from being polluted to being green.

GREENERY

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The featured image of this article depicts the inside of the Cloud Forest, part of Singapore’s 250 acre nature park, Gardens By The Bay, created in 2012. The park aims at enhancing the quality of life within the city by increasing the amount of flora and fauna. It is a resounding success. Awe-inspiringly beautiful and ecologically marvellous, Gardens By The Bay represents just one way in which a city can increase their green footprint.

In Paris, the local government recently passed a law which allows citizens to plant their very own urban gardens in public spaces. Permits allow them to grow anything from plant-filled walls, to trees, to planters along the roads. Also, the city will provide the topsoil and seeds upon any request, though plots are required to be maintained by those who proposed them.

In Shenzhen, China, a crowded city of 12 million that is vulnerable to flooding, has begun a project of turning it’s rooftops into gardens. The gardens themselves can help to retain 65% of rainwater and reduce pollution through carbon dioxide intake. The project is part of China’s sponge cities initiative, which is helping poorer communities become more resilient to extreme weather.

Ideas for greenery can come in even quirkier forms. For example, the Dutch designer/artist Daan Roosegaarde has come up with an idea which could revolutionise not only the way our cities look and how we keep them green, but how we keep them lit at night.  Through biomimicry-inspired technology, Daan has come up with the idea for a ‘bioluminescent plant’, through splicing the DNA from luminescent bacteria with the chloroplast genome of plants to create a jellyfish-type glow. Roosegaarde hopes that one day it could replace our conventional street lighting, allowing us to plant more trees and save on the electricity bill.

And who said a garden had to be on a horizontal surface? Wall gardens have become more prevalent and more important in the fight to keep our cities green. Drawing on the advances in hydroponic growing, the free space on a number of buildings can now be taken up by plantlife. In London, the Edgware Road Tube Station, among other locations, has a vertical garden incorporated into its structure, created by UK-based firm Biotecture.

Adding greenery to cities improves air quality, the mood of passersby, and can also create more resilience to hotter summer temperature. It stimulates evapotranspiration, in which evaporating water from plants leaves reduces the surrounding air temperature.

TIME FOR REFLECTION

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We’ve been experiencing hotter and hotter consecutive summers within the last decade, with heatwaves lasting weeks. Cities are particularly susceptible to these, as pollution and the trapping effect of architecture can create heat pools that keep temperatures up.

We all know that the best reflective colour is white. As the Sun beats down upon our planet, the white snowy areas do their part to reflect that light and heat back out into space, but as those white areas are melting under the strain of climate breakdown, we need to take matters into our own hands. If cities are to be made to be more eco-friendly, and cooler in the long run, the materials used to build with must be changed.

Urban areas are filled with, almost-oppressively, with dark materials – your concrete, asphalt, brick, metal painted black. These dark colours absorb heat from the Sun, growing hotter and hotter throughout the day. In Australia, conventional paving can reach temperatures of up to 67C and conventional roofs up to 50-90C on a hot day. This heat is then leached back in to the streets during the night, not allowing for any respite from it during summer months.

Research done by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has shown that living on the top floor of a building with a dark roof poses a health risk, after having identifying a risk factor of mortality in the 1995 heatwave in Chicago. The best way to avoid this is to use cool-coloured coatings.

White-coloured coatings or materials applied, not only to roofs, but to walls and even roads, can reflect more solar energy away from a building. In New York, the Cool Roofs Initiative, has seen more than 500,000m² of roof space covered in white reflective coating, reducing the amount of CO2 produced by 2,282 tonnes per year. Research done by NASA suggested that a white roof could be anywhere up to 23C cooler than a normal black roof on the hottest day of the year.

In Los Angeles, a city known as an urban heat island, the local government has begun to paint roads in white coloured sealant that has a high reflective value. This could, as suggestions proclaim, reduce temperatures in the road by 10-15ºF.

INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

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As our cities and populations grow, we need to adapt our technologies so that they fit both our current and our future needs. The picture above is the definition of this. These impressive structures make up the Supertree Grove at the previously mentioned Gardens By The Bay in Singapore.

The 18 Supertrees stretch up to 50 metres high, their steel frames housing a whopping 162,900 plants of over 200 species. It is fairly evident that a large part of their function is to serve an aesthetic function, one which they carry out with rare beauty and grace for pieces of architecture, but they also serve environmental purposes. Each Supertree is equipped to harvest rainwater, and some are replete with photovoltaic cells, which mimic the chlorophyll of real trees and capture solar energy. Others are integrated with the conservatories that make up Gardens By The Bay, and serve as air exhaust receptacles, ventilating them.

In London, they have taken interactive technologies to a much ‘lower’ level. In West Ham there is an elevated pedestrian walkway close to the underground, and built into this walkway is an intentional underfoot ‘springiness’. This springiness can be attributed to the five millimetre thick smart tiles that capture the kinetic energy produced by a pedestrian’s footfall, powering the streetlights above, an innovation which was created by Pavegen, and has also been installed in London’s Heathrow.

Another Good Idea in turning cities ‘green’ is something that has been capturing the attention of many people – solar roads. In the Netherlands, a solar energy-harvesting bike path made waves when it produced 3,000kWh – enough to power a small household for a year. Public interest has also been focused on the US company, Solar Roadways, which aims at covering every highway in the US with thick, durable LED-lit solar panels.

It has been theorised that if their plan were to succeed, the solar roadway network would produce more electricity than America uses. The residual heat stored in them melts ice and snow, they are able to store underground cables, and are effectively resistant to potholing. What this could mean for cities would be a vast network of solar roads which powered the adjacent buildings and public transport links.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

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The World Health Organisation estimates that around 7 million premature deaths are caused by air pollution. This pollution can be found at it’s worst in cities, where high buildings and high vehicle generates and traps a lot of polluted air. In England, around 40,000 premature deaths and even more health conditions are linked to poor air quality. So what can we do about it?

Initially, we can petition local governments to invest in the infrastructure of public transport, making it more reliable. If we can rely on public transport, more people will readily use it than resorting to taking their cars. In Helsinki, there are plans to offer ‘mobility on demand’ by the year 2025. The plans are based around integrating all public transport services; buses, taxis, bikes, and ferries, into one smartphone app. This app would act as both route planner and payment platform, allowing residents and tourist the ease of cheap and convenient travel options.

Some cities around the world are taking other action, banning cars in certain areas or on certain days. Paris bans cars in historic central districts at weekends and during major events where pollution will be high, makes public transport free. Similarly, in Madrid there is a new incentive to encourage the use of public transport. When air quality levels are breached, 50% of cars will be banned, and public transport will be made free.

In Copenhagen, the bike is prioritised over the car, and is widely known as the city with more bicycles than it has people, having 26 ‘cycling superhighways’  . Large parts of the capital have been closed for decades, and the city is currently planning to become carbon neutral by 2025. The car-free movement can be seen in a large amount of cities around the globe, such as Helsinki, Olso, Zurich, Bangalore, and Delhi.

A GREEN CITY

There are effectively an impressive amount of ideas that a city can undertake to make itself more environmentally friendly, but one we have not yet mentioned is very important – it is the ability to invest in renewable energy. A sustainable eco-friendly energy source, if invested in properly, could provide jobs and energy indefinitely. All these technologies and ideas, if integrated properly, could turn a humble city into a bastion of green energy and policy, leading the way for other cities to join in preparation for the future.

 

 

George Monbiot proposes new language for environmental protection

Last Thursday political and environmental activist, writer, and columnist George Monbiot took to Twitter to showcase what he suggests should be new terms for general use in the fight against climate breakdown.

The environmentalist, who recently spoke at an Extinction Rebellion event outside Parliament, wrote; ‘Here are my suggestions on how to talk about the living world with words that engage people, reveal rather than disguise realities, and honour what we seek to protect.’

We’ve put the old and proposed new terms in a table below.

Old Terms New Terms
The environment The living planet / the natural world
Climate change Climate breakdown
Global warming Global heating
Biodiversity Wildlife
Fish stocks Fish populations (they don’t exist to be exploited)
Natural resources Living systems / The fabric of the Earth (ditto)
Natural capital Nature / living systems
Ecosystem services Life support systems
Nature reserves Wildlife refuges (reserve suggests distance)
Extinction Ecocide / annihilation (these suggest agency)
The planet The living planet
Save the planet Defending the living planet
Climate sceptic Climate science denier (exact opposite of sceptic)
Freemarket thinktank Opaquely-funded lobby group

Monbiot recently published Out Of The Wreckage, a work concerning what he calls ‘the politics of belonging’ – ways in which we can take we can take back control of social, democratic, and economic life, through radical reorganisation, against forces who would seek to thwart the ambitions for a better, fairer society.

The writer is incredibly vocal on environmental activism through his twitter page, also using it to criticise the right-wing media and the presidency of Donald Trump.

The new language itself paints the world of environmental protection as both an imminent, urgent, and also, solvable, situation. In a previous tweet, explaining his use of ‘climate breakdown, over ‘climate change’ Monbiot wrote: ‘1. It better conveys the extent of the problem. 2. People don’t say “So what? The climate’s always breaking down” 3. It makes an implicit connection with the impact on our minds. 4. It suggests that we can fix it.’

What Monbiot is implicitly proposing is that to deal with climate breakdown and all ensuing related issues, we need to drastically rethink the way we perceive the living planet and our relationship to it, and this involves changing our very language to re-orientate those perspectives.

What are your thoughts on Monbiot’s new terms?

UN warns of extinction threat over biodiversity loss

Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the United Nation’s Biodiversity Chief, (or more accurately, the Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity), has stated in the run up towards an important international conference that pressure needs to be put on governments for them to create new and ambitious universal targets by the year 2020, protecting the various levels of global biodiversity.

It has been warned that without new legislation the human race could be the first authors of their own extinction, if the destruction of biodiversity is not either slowed or stopped altogether.

Talking to The Guardian, Pașca Palmer stated that the loss of biodiversity is a ‘silent killer’. “It’s different from climate change, where people feel the impact in everyday life. With biodiversity, it is not so clear but by the time you feel what is happening, it may be too late.”

Global biodiversity is incredibly important for a number of reasons. Varying degrees of biodiversity affects everything from clean water production, global food production, and the sequestration of carbon in the atmosphere.

This all comes with the results of the Living Planet Report, published by the WWF last week. The report, involving both the WWF and 59 scientists from around the globe, stated that humanity has eradicated 60% of animal populations between 1970 and 2014. “What is clear is that without a dramatic move beyond ‘business as usual’ the current severe decline of the natural systems that support modern societies will continue.” narrates the report in it’s preliminary pages.

Both our food services, health, and security all depend on biodiversity. It has been estimated that, globally, the natural world provides services worth around US$125 trillion a year, although we feel it pertinent to point out that this should not be the major factor in determining whether it is something of value.

The key driving threats to global biodiversity are over-exploitation and agricultural activity. For example, In 2016 the FAO published their biannual report about the state of fish population depletion, with monitored fish stocks being ‘52% are fully exploited, 17% are overexploited, 7% are depleted, 1% are recovering from depletion’. It is mostly with the increase in global demand for animal products such as red meat that we lose critical environments.

Land degradation, another key issue, has a detrimental impact on 75% of terrestrial ecosystems. This in turn reduces the welfare of more than 3 billion people globally.

In 2017, there was warning of an ‘ecological armageddon’, after research done in Germany stated that ‘More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas.

A meeting will take place in Sharm El Sheikh this month between the 196 member states of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to hopefully ignite conversations and ideas on new legislation for protecting the world’s crucial ecosystems. The next conference is set for 2020 in Beijing, where Pașca Palmer hopes a global deal can be implemented.

The state of biodiversity loss has been hailed as the ‘sixth mass extinction’, otherwise known as the ‘holocene extinction’, and unfortunately a lot of this loss goes undocumented, as the vast majority of species to exist and to go extinct are rumoured to be undiscovered.

This issue is unfortunately low on the global political agendas. It’s more popular, media-infamous cousin, climate breakdown, receives much more attention. Few heads of state attend conferences and talks about biodiversity. The US government, who have been systematic in their denial of climate breakdown and open about their wish to leave the Paris Climate Agreement, refused to ratify the Aichi Protocol of eight years ago, which saw nations promise to at least halve the loss of natural habitats. The Vatican chose not to send a participate.

As human populations grow and climate breakdown continues, rates of habitat destruction, pollution, and the introduction of invasive species will accelerate. It is estimated that by 2050, Africa is expected to lose 50% of its mammals and birds. What is even more harrowing is the conclusion that the loss of land plants and sea life will reduce the Earth’s overall ability to absorb and store carbon. This, along with the burning of fossil fuels will contribute to feedback mechanisms that could, if left unchecked, create an unstoppable cycle of global heating.

It is worth noting that the problems are biodiversity loss and climate breakdown are both very important issues that need solving. They are simultaneously separate issues and also are intrinsically linked to one another.

There is hope though. The UN’s top climate and biodiversity institutions held their first joint meeting, finding that solutions that were focused on nature and the living planet, solutions such as the protection of forests, planting trees, restoring land, and effective soil management, could provide up to one third of carbon absorption needed to keep global warming with the parameters set by the Paris Agreement. Some world leaders are opening their minds to the issue, such as French president, Emmanuel Macron, who recently agreed that the issue of climate breakdown cannot be solved as a single issue, and must be looked at in part with the mission to stem the loss of biodiversity.

In the Living Planet Report, the WWF states: “We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the value of nature and our impact on it. We may be the last that can take action to reverse this trend. From now until 2020 will be a decisive moment in history.”