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‘Eco-Mindful Media’ Is Now a Reality

Time for independence from old ways of thinking. There is definitely a global shift toward “Eco-mindful media.” Seems to be popping out like digital gophers all along the media landscape. And now would be a really good time to understand and communicate about how to save ourselves from extinction. Newspapers: Last month L.A. Times environmental […]

Time for independence from old ways of thinking.

There is definitely a global shift toward “Eco-mindful media.” Seems to be popping out like digital gophers all along the media landscape. And now would be a really good time to understand and communicate about how to save ourselves from extinction.

Newspapers: Last month L.A. Times environmental reporter Margot Roosevelt wrote a wonderful article “Forests are as good as carbon in the bank.” The content about how forests can play a starring role in our struggle to deal with climate change is enough to warm a dirt blogger’s heart.

But more than that, Margot’s article showed up in prime time — page one — usually such articles are buried in the back pages. That climate change solutions are moving to the front of newspapers is a small but hopeful sign… finally something worth the trees they’re printed on? Paper media may be heading into the past as many have predicted which would be a shame if we were to lose such articles as these just when we need them on page one.

Television: A similar shift in focus to foreground has been happening in television, starting with cable. In January of last year the History Channel offered up a television special "Life After People" that took audiences through a post-apocalyptic 10,000 year time lapse of the crumbling of our urban industrial civilization after the sudden disappearance of humans.

The CGI depictions of the world without us (humans that is — the rest of our biological brothers and sisters did just fine without us) were startling and challenging.

The audience was the largest the History Channel ever had. Nat Geo channel weighed in 3 months later with "Aftermath: Population Zero,"  based on a similar concept. After human population drops from 6 billion to zero you get to “explore a world you will never see."  Taking it an interactive step further you can go to the website to “Experience the Aftermath … advance time to see buildings fall and nature rise.”

April 2009 The History Channel spun off "Life After People: The Series," based on the original broadcast. These cable shows and related websites are definitely attention grabbers… but they didn’t really deal with what happened to us humans.

Then, last month — June 2, 2009 — the what-if wonderings moved to prime time with ABC’s "Earth 2100," a two hour thought provoking special that gives humans the close up we’ve been ready for. And it ain’t a pretty picture.

Overpopulation, our depletion of natural resources, and actions contributing to climate change bring an end to life as we know it. This worst-case scenario is a challenge to our complacency.

Going beyond the standard TV doc format the program uses Lucy, a graphic novel fictional character to take us through the next very scary hundred years in order to personalize predictions that can boggle the intellect.

I think there are a couple of real interesting developments here: Primetime is the right time for Eco-Mindful Media; and, "Earth 2100’s" creative team is reaching out to audiences with imaginative story telling techniques.

The enormity of the problems we face demand that we use every bit of media imagination as well as solid science and probing journalism to reach solutions. Graphic novel animation in a primetime TV doc? Absofriggenlutely.

Movies: In a world of dread maybe some things are looking "Up."  In the latest Pixar animation director Pete Docter, writer Bob Peterson and the whole creative team take audiences on an adventure infused with values that go to the heart of Eco-Mindfulness.

Not that the film is some environmental tract or message film. Not at all. Rather, there’s an emotional and ethical current that flows through the film that is evidence of the uplifting power of imagination to reveal the reality of what truly matters.

The film pulls you in with one of the best love stories you’ll ever feel in film with Carl and Ellie and then challenges you with a profound sense of loss when Ellie dies before the couple can realize their shared childhood dreams of adventure.

Setting the story on its way "Up" acknowledges the human realities of urban overdevelopment, when Carl faces eviction and removal to an old age home; and, offers grit and adventure as the only credible uplifting responses. He floats his house away on balloons heading for Paradise Falls to fulfill his promise to Ellie.

An 8-year-old boy Russell stows away, and our characters find Paradise Falls a fallen paradise that demands of them more action and commitment from them than they ever thought possible.

In an era when some have suggested that we don’t have to worry about what we’re doing to the planet because we can colonize space, the movie punctures the myth that we can somehow float away from our troubles and true feelings.

Down here on planet Earth the only happy ending we can have will come from taking responsibility for each other. Russell refuses to abandon the wonderful and nearly extinct chocolate loving bird he names Kevin, and grumpy old Carl winds up giving Russell the paternal attention and support he’s never had. I walked out of the theater with family, friends and the audience all feeling "Up."

Eco-Mindful Media? Maybe we are starting to pay attention in a way that will prepare a necessary shift in consciousness … Dig it!

Gene Rosow, aka DirtDoctorG, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and feature film producer who brings it all home to planet Earth and gets us all down in the dirt.