Our guest blogger Martyn S. Carless is aghast at the penguin madness sweeping the US due to the current hit film Happy Feet.
As global warming continues its merciless and unabated advance, destroying vast swathes of the earth’s fragile surface, bad tidings are already coming in of the first unfortunate victims to fall to its dire consequences.
In the Antarctic – where temperatures in some regions have risen by an extraordinary 9°F in little over five decades – alarm bells are starting to sound as the ice sheets go into retreat and with them the rich and abundant species that have inhabited these far flung places for many thousands of years.
It is with this disturbing prospect in mind why I find it all the more ironic that Hollywood, remaining faithful to its festive season
profits tradition, should decide to go ahead and release another feature-length animated extravaganza, this time featuring penguins.
The movie, not-so-aptly named Happy Feet, revolves around the life of a hapless penguin called Mumble who, unable to fit into the Antarctic world around him endeavours to find his place and during the process, discovers a unique talent for tap-dancing – hence the movie’s title.
And strangely, it is not lacking in its own environmental perspective. The penguins, threatened by the deep-sea trawlers helping to remove the oceans of their only food source, find an unlikely hero in Mumble, who takes it upon himself to uncover the truth behind the fishes mysterious disappearance and thus stave-off certain starvation for the entire colony.
Not surprisingly, the film has proven to be a festive hit with moviegoers everywhere and has stormed to the top of the US box office in its opening weekend. It would appear the world has all of a sudden become struck by penguin madness.
So what could possibly be amiss about a film that, after all, delivers its own virtuous environmental message? Well, if it has not already dawned upon you, here are some points to consider:
- Cinema audiences, in their rush to see what are, after all, but cute and cuddly, CGI animated characters, appear to be losing sight as to the true sorry plight of their real living, breathing, flesh-and-blood equivalents, to which climate change now represents a very immediate threat to their continued existence.
- The movie’s title – Happy Feet – one could be forgiven for thinking, gives the misleading impression the future survival of this species is certain and sure, when, in all actuality, the ice below these so-called ‘happy feet’ is actually melting away, making the penguin one of the most endangered of all the earth’s living things.
- The unnecessary emissions released during the production of, and the subsequent viewing of the movie; when these are taking into account (not including the additional emissions that are emitted a result of the pre- and post-release merchandising of the film) this can only contribute to the species demise still further.
In March of this year, a brand new BBC wildlife documentary series called Planet Earth was received into our homes. Featuring some never-seen-before footage, the nation gasped in awe at the breath-taking scenes the documentary contained.
Along with the other natural delights was stunning new video footage which captured a female polar bear and her cubs as they emerged from their snow-covered retreat into the spring sunshine for the first time. Such scenes of jubilation, as the mother bear rolled contentedly down the snow-strewn peak, her cubs following in pursuit; few could have been untouched by the heart-warming scene.
Yet the same polar bears, contrary to our misconceptions of them at the time, now face an extremely uncertain future in which their very existence is called into question.
Will we ever wake up to the sobering realisation that if we continue to live in our present state of climate denial all that will remain of the natural world we once knew will be but silly CGI creations, brought to life on huge cinema screens, or reels of endless celluloid to be stored in video archives? Such films, however breath-taking and wonderfully choreographed they may be, can never be compared to the natural beauty and wonder of the world we, in our destructive wantonness, are so recklessly destroying.
Martyn Carless is a committed environmentalist, writer and designer for the World Wide Web. A practicing Christian, he seeks to raise awareness of individual responsibility as regards the climate crisis. Martyn can be contacted at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
[ps January 2007. BBC World recently posted a news item making a very similar point to Martyn- the Rockhoppper penguins have had two major population crashes and their decline is believed to be directly related to climate change. Click here to see news item]
CUTE PENGUINS INVADE CLIMATE NEGOTIATIONS- A FOOTNOTE FROM GEORGE MARSHALL
The COP 6 climate negotiations in the Hague in 2000 had a rousing slogan ‘Work it Out!’ and a logo of a penguin in a sombrero with sun glasses. It seems that anthropomorphic penguins are regarded as universally engaging. Try as I might I could feel no humour in this logo- it felt pathetic and tragic in equal measure. – George