Sunday, March 3, 2019

''A climate activist of the litterary kind seeks Hollywood flame, part 2'' - OpEd by Dan Bloom

A climate activist of the literary kind seeks Hollywood flame, Part 2

a 2nd oped by Dan Bloom following part 1 here

March 4, 2039

Recently, an expat sustainability journalist and blogger in Turkey, Erica Eller, asked me what my favorite cli-fi novel of all time is and could I name it for her?


"You know, my favorite cli-fi novel of all time is not a cli-fi novel at all but it ties in with my work as a cli-fi advocate and promoter," I replied by email. "It's 'On the Beach' which was a dime novel paperback from Australia about nuclear war and nuclear winter back in the 1950s, and which had a huge impact on world leaders in the 1960s and 1970s. So I am looking for, and hoping for, an 'On the Beach' style of a cli-fi novel about climate change. Who will write it and when? I stay awake at night thinking about this sometimes."

 After part 1 of my 2-part blog post appeared online, a friend of mine who is a psychiatrist in Ohio, Steven Moffic, commented online, in reaction to my concluding line in part 1:
''That is why I am looking for the "On the Beach" of the 2020s or 2030s. Such movies take time and funding to get made. I will be watching.''

Dr Steven Moffic wrote: ''Dan, your wish has been mine, too. In the meanwhile, ''On the Beach'' should make the rounds again, with a clear connection of nuclear disaster to climate disaster. This connection has been recognized by the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for helping nuclear disarmament and now feel that climate instability is as big a risk to humanity. One of the great psychiatrists of our time, Robert Jay Lifton, has been a leader of PSR all the way.''

''I am also a psychiatrist, who is one of the editors of a new book in progress about combatting climate change. Also, in the second edition of the best-selling book ''The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,'' set to be released on March 19, I co-authored a chapter on the environment dangers not being addressed by this administration. Actually, maybe our modern sci fi story is actually our reality, which to many seems like an alternative reality that was once unimaginable.''
And here is what CNN had to say a few weeks ago in a post on the network's website, written by reporter and producer Jen Christensen. Her article adds fuel to the fire.
See some excerpts here:

''Cli-fi (climate fiction) on the big screen changes minds about real climate change"

February 8, 2019
A record number of Americans, 7 out of 10, believe that climate change is real, and the majority understand that human activity is largely to blame, according to a January poll. But still leaves 30% who are skeptical, and there are still some politicians ...who regularly tweet their doubts.
Rather than lobby them with more facts, perhaps climate scientists should send naysayers to the movies.
Ever since the 1973 cult classic "Soylent Green" introduced audiences to the food shortages climate change will bring, movie makers and television show producers have been scaring people about it. Apple TV will run a TV series called "Losing Earth" this year, and TNT will turn the movie "Snowpiercer" into a TV series. (Like CNN, TNT is part of WarnerMedia.) There's even a catchy name for this climate change fiction genre: cli-fi.
What experts tell us, though, is that cli-fi isn't just wholesome dystopian entertainment; it seems to help people believe in actual climate change, even when Hollywood's version of the science is a bit off.
"Story is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of communications we ever had. When someone says 'now, let me tell you a story ...' something goes 'zzzzzt' in your brain. It's like when you were a child and your parent says they are going to tell you a bedtime story. It automatically opens you up, " said Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist at the Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
"Film, so far, is the most powerful form of storytelling that we've devised," Leiserowitz said.
Leiserowitz has the data to prove it, although because people don't always listen to facts, he has a good story about it, too.

'The Day After Tomorrow'

The film depicting devastating overnight climate change was released around Memorial Day 2004; by mid-July, an estimated 30 million tickets had been sold.

Once upon a time, back in 2004, there was a blockbuster called "The Day After Tomorrow," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. It's about a polar explorer who warns the world that the Gulf Stream will shut down. It does, triggering dramatic weather events, including a new ice age.
It was "based on a short-term variation in ocean circulation that was in the news at the time," said another climate change expert, Jim Fleming. "Some of my apocalyptically oriented colleagues loved it, and one, a polar explorer, was even a model for the main character. I could not suspend disbelief, however."
While the science made it hard for some experts to enjoy, like a lot of sci-fi, "the film goes beyond the science," another climate expert, Jonathan Overpeck, wrote in an email. He explains that although the ocean circulation can slow, change wouldn't happen overnight, and it's unlikely to spark a new ice age. Rather, it means less warming in the North Atlantic, like what we see now. Overpeck, who is a paleoclimatologist and a dad, adds that it's a personal favorite since its main character is a paleoclimatologist dad who speaks truth to power. 
"The kind of global freeze-up depicted in the film is not something to worry about," Overpeck said. "But paleoclimatologists do rock!"
Leiserowitz likes the movie. He did a study about how it motivated people to take action to curb climate change, and artists from all disciplines have reached out to him to talk about how to create equally impactful narratives.
Before "The Day After Tomorrow" even opened, there was buzz or, as Leiserowitz punnily describes in his 2005 study, "an intense storm of media controversy."
Scientists and politicians took to the airwaves, debating the movie's accuracy and impact. Some feared that the drama would make people think climate change was mere fantasy. Others worried that the public would panic and force politicians to fight climate change, something unwelcome by the Republican White House at the time. Leiserowitz and his team studied its impact in real time.
They created a national survey, sampling public opinion a week before the movie's release and four weeks later. What they found was that "across the board, the movie appears to have had a strong influence on watchers' risk perceptions of global warming." Most moviegoers didn't worry that the most extreme scenario, like what happened in the movie, would happen in real life, but those who saw it, compared with those who skipped, felt more inclined to make personal changes to reduce their carbon footprint. They were more inclined to talk to friends about climate change, and seeing the film affected voter preferences.
Leiserowitz has a theory about why the movie mattered.
"You can't directly experience global warming. It's a theory. It's abstract. Scientists have collected temperatures and data from many decades all over the world, and that gets communicated to you through the analytic brain. That's important, yes, but the movie, it's a story."
Our ancestors relied on story to survive, he said. For example, if you see some berries that look delicious, but someone in your clan told you about a guy who ate one and died, even if you have never tasted one, that story teaches you to avoid them. They are dangerous.
Some other studies about the film showed that motivation to act didn't last, and not all climate change experts love the cli-fi genre. One so-called climate ''expert'' who is a born-again Christian and believes that all non-Christians will go to Hell when they die not matter how productive their lives were when they were alive -- and she believes this racist/faithist crap because she has been brainwashed by her born-again pastor husband and their Fake Gospels book to believe it -- and an  atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at some godforsaken redweck university in the middle of nowhere, told CNN that she appreciates that these movies bring attention to climate change, but she tends to avoid them, since "seeing the science over-dramatised and misrepresented" can be "incredibly frustrating for me as a born-again evangelical Christian scientist."
"I feel that when it is so dramatic, people instinctively know, 'oh that can't be true,' and so that leads them to reject what we actually do know," she told CNN.
But one of this this professor's grad students, Sydney Laws, on the other hand, wrote her final project about cli-fi. "I personally don't think we should hold our collective breath for a film that gets all of the facts correct," Laws writes. "Filmmakers have to tell a story in order to get the audience engaged, so I prefer to focus on their effectiveness at compelling moviegoers to change their behavior. So while scientific accuracy is incredibly important for the public's understanding of the ins and outs of climate change, merit can still be found in even the most outrageous of movies."


In "Snowpiercer," a train circles the globe with the Earth's last survivors aboard after a climate change experiment goes wrong.

Overpeck, climate scientist and dean of University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, said a "surprisingly novel and scientifically credible premise" led him to watch another cli-fi classic, the 2013 film "Snowpiercer." It's about a rogue billionaire who has used climate engineering to cool the planet, but the experiment goes awry, creating a "snowball Earth" that is largely frozen solid, and the only survivors ride a train filled with class warfare that forever circles the globe.
"A growing debate exists within the climate science community about the utility of geoengineering to cool the planet back down while at the same time continuing to burn fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases that act to warm the planet," Overpeck wrote in an email. "One critical aspect of this debate, however, is that we may never know enough to geoengineer safely."
The Earth has experienced such frozen conditions millions of years ago, and "thus climate science indicates it can be done. And, as in the movie, a snowball Earth eventually would start to thaw," Overpeck said. But the technological mistake is "unlikely."
"Instead, the potential for other mistakes more deeply trouble climate scientists, for example triggering severe droughts and famines in sensitive parts of the planet," Overpeck said. Creating technology to cool the planet does not get rid of fossil fuels that he said will continue to acidify the oceans, endangering life.
"Bottom line, the potential for geoengineering the planet's climate, complete with inherent likelihood of mistakes, is already moving from science fiction to reality," Overpeck said. "But, most climate scientists feel it would make more sense, and be safer, to just move beyond fossil fuel burning, and create a more sustainable planet."
Fleming, one of the world's better-known history of science experts that focuses on climate change, said "Snowpiercer" was a "free airplane flick."
He watched it, ironically, on his way home from a geoengineering conference "where I had lecture on the insanity of planetary intervention."
He found the class conflict and the revolution on the train interesting, as (spoiler alert) was the ending. "Two survivors of the inevitable train wreck (both people of color) seem to foreshadow a new beginning and a hopeful future," Fleming, the Charles A. Dana professor of science, technology and society at Colby College, told CNN. "Yet a hungry polar bear looks down on them. The film ends suddenly before the polar bear has his dinner."

So is Hollywood listening? Stay tuned.



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