One thing that is often a challenge to communicate about the climate crisis is that it’s the greatest threat to — and crime against — humanity, most life and most future life ever, RIGHT NOW.
This Valentine’s Day 2012, ecoSanity invites you to consider the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster (maiden voyage April 6, 1912, sank April 14/15, 1912) through the fictional love story depicted in the 1997 movie (like it or hate it) and the similarities between the circumstances that surrounded the real event then vs. the dire realities of the climate crisis NOW:
Coal (fossil fuel)-powered; was avoidable; multiple unheeded warnings; didn’t react fast enough; fate sealed before anyone knew it; denial; tipping point beyond which ship had to break in two, then sink; poorest / lowest class / most vulnerable / least culpable suffered most, and so on.
When you watch the original trailer (above), yup, mega Anglo/white (just one person of colour on board who did not survive and was not depicted in the film). Heterosexual. Classist. Colonial. Symbolic of the limits and excess of our growth and consumption-based economic model, technological hubris, and more than a little bit of a metaphor for the (potential) ‘end of the world’.
But with sympathetic characters you may care about / relate to in peril, who love, risk and sacrifice for each other through a tragedy of epic proportion, our intent is to help stir and elucidate the kind of intensity, emotion and sense of imminent danger we all need to connect to in order to get to a mindset that can compel us to confront (with EMERGENCY action at EMERGENCY, world war-time speed) the true scale, scope and urgency (planetary EMERGENCY) of our shared, global predicament.
There’s a lot to cover, so below is part 1 and a taste of part 2 (of 5), with the rest to follow between now and the actual April anniversary.
Contents (Bold below. Unbold to follow over the next few weeks.)
1. Emotions are hard
I’ve been at ecoSanity for a few years now, but I haven’t sought opportunities to speak in public or put myself out there on video or otherwise as much as I could.
One reason is because it takes a lot of energy and courage to embrace, express and reveal the degree of vulnerability necessary to convey with honesty the true scale, scope, urgency and threat of the climate crisis (EMERGENCY).
I attempt to minimize emotional connection in e-mail correspondence, Facebook comments and blog posts. I avoid it in my personal life — to focus on what I think is important work at a crucial time / rapidly closing window of opportunity, or to simplify in anticipation of a bleak, or at least rocky, future. And for other reasons both rational and the other kind.
Yet I’ve found that the key to ‘success’ from day to day is openness, the willingness to be exposed, to embrace uncertainty, community, and to appreciate / defend the gift and fragility of all life.
It is often not the strongest who survive, but those who adapt best to change.
An escapee of the dreaded film and TV industry, I dabbled with screenwriting, among other things.
A story I obsessed over for far too long deals with two troubled characters who seek extreme experiences with each other.
Things escalate. Revelations ensue. Bad things happen. Darkness descends. And their interactions grow more reckless until the finale pits them in a life or death agreement to try to kill each other during a night at a remote island location because they’ve both been so numbed by their psychological demons that they require the element of danger in order to feel alive / aroused.
The subtext: Life equals risk, risk equals life and, without risk, without the threat of death, immediate or eventual, life may seem to lack value / purpose — Or some crazy sh** like that.
But another reason I’ve avoided emotional connection / expression the last few years is because I can’t seem to contain it. Just happens.
To thank a generous supporter, communicate the many scary details of the climate crisis (again and again), or reflect on personal struggles to sustain ecoSanity, in front of an audience, feelings surface.
Maybe it’s reverberations from: the long period I spent to care for each of my parents over their final few years; the challenges of the isolation that can result from the knowledge of how extreme and insane the climate threats are that most of us either don’t know about, resist, deny, or prefer to keep a psychological distance from; the risks I’ve taken on a few occasions to participate in high profile protests that have resulted in a few days and overnights in jail, one especially unsafe weekend experience in Toronto’s “The Don”, and several court processes.
Or maybe it’s because, if one connects with honesty to what the convergence of the climate, energy, population, democracy, justice crises mean, where we’re headed and how much is at stake, to feel unease about it — sadness, guilt, uncertainty, anger, frustration, anxiety, shock, horror, fear — is the rational response.
In an interview with jailed activist Tim DeChristopher by Terry Tempest Williams (Orion Magazine), DeChristopher suggests that an element that may be too rare in the climate/environment movement is emotion and that, while grief and despair may result in periods of paralysis, he considers them to be essential phases in the enlightenment process because they can lead to the outrage and compassion necessary to move us beyond fears about what we could lose, or the supposed need for ‘hope‘, and compel us to take action based on our moral beliefs about what’s right, how we should behave and what we should stand for.
“…I think it’s that period of grieving that’s missing from the climate movement… that denies the severity of the situation, because that grieving process is really hard. I struggle with pushing people into that period of grieving. I mean, I find myself pulling back. I see people who still have that kind of buoyancy and hopefulness. And I don’t want to shatter that, you know?”
The interviewer, Terry, later adds at the end of a story about loss:
“I had been changed. I had a deeper sense of suffering but I also felt a deeper sense of joy. Hard to explain, but I remember someone saying to me, “Terry, you’re married to sorrow.” And I said, “No, I’m not married to sorrow, I just refuse to look away.”
A few extraordinary activists we know believe “Love is the movement” and have immortalized the sentiment with tattoos.
Another believes that compassion is the path to EMERGENCY climate action at EMERGENCY speed.
And a few weeks ago (that’s right, not until a few weeks ago), I stumbled across the phrase, “Feel the love, not the burn.”
Truth. Passion. Emotion.
That’s what it says on the back of our ecoSanity cards because in a get together a few years ago, a couple who became two of our greatest supporters tested me and asked point blank what I felt ecoSanity was / should be about.
Off guard and on the spot, those were the words that blithered out of me and, as it turned out, they were also the uncommon sentiments each had long craved to hear.
Since then, I’ve had numerous conversations with many who *get* the EMERGENCY and who feel the same way about the role emotions must play, but too often don’t.
Which brings us — at last(!) — to the story of Titanic and all the parallels that can be drawn in relation to the climate crisis.
Here’s a taste of part 2, with more to follow over the next few weeks.
2. Nutshell: Titanic
Above: The ship’s band led by Wallace Hartley (all of whom died) are said by witnesses to have played music to attempt to help maintain calm as panic set in and the steamer began to sink.
“Nearer, My God, to Thee” was the song most reported.
“While the (2011) UN climate negotiations reel dangerously in Durban (South Africa), NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are entertained by a lone pianist. I cannot help but to think that we are living the last hours of the Titanic.” ~ Endless conference towards an agreement on never ending negotiations, Sébastien Duyck, AdoptaNegotiator.org (ecoSanity Compilation: COP 17 Durban UN Climate Summit 2011: Betrayal of Life)
2012 has arrived, but will it bring the end of the world, the start of the end, OR a transformation to a new, more awakened era?
One thing is certain: As long as there is profit to be made, it will be sought.
Case in point: A money grab, Titanic 3D, is set for release on the 100th anniversary (April 6, 2012) of the maiden voyage of the EMS Titanic ocean liner (April 6, 1912) that ended in the deaths of 1,517 out of 2,223 passengers when it struck an iceberg and sank 2 hours and 40 minutes later (April 14/15th, 1912).
Pitched as Romeo and Juliet on Titanic in what Director James Cameron considered to be a powerful metaphor and microcosm for the end of the world, in 1997, it was the most expensive movie ever made (Budget: $200 million + marketing) and it became the most successful film in history until Cameron’s follow up, Avatar (sands).
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more from Betrayal of Life: Climate Emergency on Planet Titanic over the next few weeks!
QUOTES & RESOURCES
Relevant quotes from the 1997 Titanic movie trailer (first video at top):
- Evil boyfriend, to Rose (Kate Winslet): “I pulled every string I could to book us on the grandest ship in history and you act as if you’re going to your execution.”
- Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio): “I’m the king of the world!”
- Rose: “Don’t come any closer — I’ll let go!” Jack: “No you won’t.”
- Jack: “He’s got you trapped, Rose, and if you don’t break free, you’re going to die.”
- Ship’s Lookout: “Iceberg, right ahead!”
- Rose: “Don’t you understand? The water is freezing and there aren’t enough boats. Half the people on this ship are going to die.” Evil boyfriend: “Not the better half.”
- Child: “What are we doing, Mommy?”, Mother: “When they’ve finished putting first class people on the boats, they’ll be starting with us.”
- Ship builder: “Why are the boats being launched half full?”
- Trapped worker: “For godsake there’s women and children down here — Let us go so we can have a chance?!”
- Evil boyfriend: “I hope you enjoy your time together!”
- Jack, to Rose: “You have to stay on the ship as long as possible.”
- Rose, to Jack: “You jump, I jump, right?”
- Rose, terrified: “Oh God (Jack: “This is it!”). Oh God. Oh God. Uh — Oh God…”
Articles, blog posts
- Video – Titanic: The sequel, Stephen Chu (recorded before he was named U.S. Energy Secretary), ClimateCrocks.com
- Post – Is the planet now on Titanic’s course? Eric Grimsrud, DailyInterLake.com
- Post – Endless conference towards an agreement on never ending negotiations, Sébastien Duyck, AdoptaNegotiator.org
- Article – The 30 seconds that sank the Titanic – fatal delay in order to change course doomed liner, Jasper Copping, The Telegraph
- Post – The 3 causes of BP’s Titanic oil disaster: Recklessness, arrogance, hubris, Joe Romm, Climate Progress
- Post – The untold story of the Titanic: Only one person of colour on board, Sabrina L. Miller, Titanic-Nautical.com
- Article – What sank the Titanic? Blame it on the moon, Jim Forsyth, Toronto Star
- Article – No lifeboat drill the day Titanic struck iceberg, K. Kidd, Toronto Star
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