A nature documentary set in The Arctic Circle didn’t initially engage my interest. Relatively, not much lives up there, does it? And plus, I expected the shots would all be white and boring. However, Animal Planet far surpassed my expectations – not only was it rich in colour but its hardy creature subjects made for compelling viewing. It brought the impending peril faced by these enduring creatures home to mass audiences. Even if the great majority of viewers were not stirred into action, it would have made them (momentarily?) consider the catastrophic effects of climate change, brought about by our planet-wrecking actions.
This documentary is most certainly calculated to tug on the heart strings. Its cinematic score, liberal dose of life and death struggles, and cruel twists of fortune dealt by nature’s hand move us to empathise with the creature subjects. I would watch, somewhat illogically, always rooting for the prey to escape its predator. I felt for the mother and father penguin as their chick was clumsily trampled to death. And I was profoundly moved to reflect on the evolutionary arms-race of wolf versus buffalo, as through fight and flight respectfully, they were pitted against each other, and ultimately struggled to the death.
The Artic Ocean further captivated me. A wondrous, magical world of bizarre lifeforms and immense beauty. I was astounded to observe the destructive progress of a brinicle, as it enveloped star fish and sea urchins, and froze the slow moving creatures to death. And to think how little we know about the oceans and the giants that lurk in its depths! For me, it’s impossible not to watch a show like this and not feel something elemental in one’s gut. A deep feeling that these lives are important, and plundering their ecosystem and destroying their habitat is wrong.
But is it enough to merely indulge sentimental feelings as we watch comfortably from our armchairs? Feeling sentimental in itself achieves nothing. It’s could even be an abdication of responsibility for the part one plays in contributing to the problem. It’s like saying – ‘I know I care about this because I feel sad however it is inevitable that this ecosystem will be destroyed by those whom don’t care’.
How, then, can we move from sentimentality to action? And what exactly can we do to counteract the destruction?
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