In The Movies

We watch an awful (really, I do mean to use that word – awful) lot of movies in our house. It’s one of the few mutually enjoyable activities we can do with L.’s mom. She forgets after a while which ones she’s watched, so we’ve gone through The Hobbit at least 6 or 7 times in the last couple of years (for instance). Harry Potter — I’ve lost count. From start to finish.

One of the things I find most interesting, though, it to look for the marks of ecological change, and agriculture, on landscapes. This is particularly interesting in older movies: in Out Of Africa, herds of giraffes gallop across the Kenyan plains. Today, it’s rare to see more than a handful in a group. In The Hobbit, the opening images of The Shire show hill sides rippling with the knobbly trails that are a hallmark of continuous overgrazing by cattle. Certainly any movie filmed in the Amazon more than 20 years ago would show striking differences.

It’s unfortunate that of all people, David Attenborough has been possibly the one person on the planet with the greatest exposure to more landscapes than anyone else on Earth… and yet, he has opted not to highlight their perils, either of the landscapes themselves or their wildlife. While his photographers and videographers lament that it gets more and more difficult to get the kind of stunning, pristine-like footage that has made Attenborough’s videos so famous, the man himself refuses to get political about environmental degradation, species loss, the intrusion of human habitats and the erosion of biodiversity on so many levels. I watch these videos now with a great sadness: our daughter will likely never even have the possibility of seeing many of these species in her lifetime, not because one person just can’t travel to so many places — but because they will be extinct. Irrevocably lost: the monarch butterflies, the killer whales, the giraffes, the rhinoceroses, frogs, bats, and so many we forget to let cross our minds in the day-to-day.

This is why we need ecosystem restoration — not just species by species, but full on landscape-scale regeneration of the kinds of diverse, thriving, multi-storied habitats that support numerous species. No, we will not save them all. But there are so many that we still stand a fighting chance to protect.

I digress: what I actually got to thinking about was that we might well start romanticizing regenerative agriculture landscapes in the movie industry, not just in op-ed glamor pieces in The New Yorker, The Guardian, and Huff Post. Why not instead of romanticizing running through a field of corn (e.g. in the Hobbit, when Frodo leaves The Shire), we envision that scene taking place as a chase between rows of fruit trees, the underbrush thick with a dizzying array of different plants — the Hobbits, of course, must stop to sample all the fruits dripping off the laden branches — and startling up a small flock of grazing sheep, or the roaming chickens.

That’s the kind of landscape I’d like to see my daughter watching in movies someday.

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