Just another ordinary sushi... Photo from the film Blue Marble Café.
Crisis, crisis, crisis. Climate change, crashing economies, oceans depleted of fish and other natural resources fading away under human pressure.
We certainly live in times of great changes, some of which can be quite hard to grasp. And usually culture is a good companion, that can help us process and understand what is going on around us.
But when it comes to the environment, I’d say that culture hasn’t really kept pace with the course of events. At least in Sweden, rather few theatre plays, films and books take on the subjects of climate change and resource scarcity.
But there are a few. When I went to the festival Uncivilised earlier this summer, I happened to talk to the film maker and actor Håkan Julander. Together with Björn Engström he has taken on the difficult task of making films about our time’s big crisis – with a sense of humour.
– We certainly need heavy, expensive film projects like “Home” and “The Planet” , but it must also be possible to make entertainment about these issues.We can joke about everything else, so why not his? he tells me.
One beer coming up! Photo from the film Blue Marble Café.
Mattias Klum is one of Sweden’s most well-known photographers. But his work doesn’t consist “just” in beautiful pictures of the world, his projects also reflect a strong environmental engagement. And maybe his motto “inspire to act” can actually work?
Photographer and filmmaker Mattias Klum. Photo: Samuel Svensäter.
A few days ago I watched his latest documentary The Coral Eden, broadcasted on Swedish television, and was taken by the colours and shapes of submarine life in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. These are one of the last remaining coral reefs that are almost unharmed by human activities. The inhabitants of these islands live their life as a part of the ecosystem in a way that most other sociteties aren’t any way near doing.
The documentary is made as part of the Project Oceans and will be spread in different countries.
But Mattias Klum isn’t only working in exotic places far away from Sweden. He has decided to dedicate ten years to documenting the efforts to save the Baltic Sea threated by eutrophication, hazardous substances, over-fishing and maritime transport. Another one of Mattias Klum’s long-term project is Expeditionsverige.se (in Swedish only). He describes it as a project to touch, move and inspire people in Sweden to take an active interest in matters concerning our nature and environment.
Borneo’s rainforest, from the project The Testament of Tebaran. Photo: Mattias Klum.
Below is a trailer for the documentary The Coral Eden. “Our aim with this film” writes Mattias Klum “is to highlight the importance of a functional marine ecosystem by taking the viewer to one of the last untouched places in the world, where biodiversity still flourishes and where people still live in harmony with nature.”
In 2006 I lived in France, but I still remember how friends wrote me about a TV series back home called The Planet , that seemed to turn its viewers upside down. The series, which also became a documentary film, was about the environment and the Earth, and was made by among others Johan Söderberg, who earlier worked with films like Surplus: Terrorized into being consumers and has a way to make pictures and sounds work their way right through all psycological barriers we have.
Even if I wasn’t around, I really got the impression that this series made many Swedes taking climate change and other sustainability issues more seriously.
But The Planet was mostly about describing what’s wrong. So the directors Michael Stenberg and David Österberg decided to make a new film, trying to find solutions. The Swedish television, SVT, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency decided to back the project.
Tamsin Omond, climate activist and one of the persons in The Plan. Photo from the film.
The result, a film called The Plan. When I watched it at a pree-screening last week the directors said they started out by interviewing 30 or 40 scientists, but ended up realising that they didn’t have the answers. So they dived right out into humanity, finding a multitude of ideas and plans of what to do. As one of the persons in the film puts it: There won’t be one magic button that can be pushed to fix things, we need a lot of people pressing different buttons.
The Plan will be shown on Swedish television at Christmas Day before it’s spread in other parts of the world. Until then, I recommend you all to see The Planet. Below you can see its trailer and the whole film can be found here. The Planet also had a multimedia educational website, The Planet Infact, worth checking out.
To be delivered at a train station? Photo: Frech/Flickr.
Considering that oil will not always be abundant and cheap, we can expect energy to become more expensive. It’s interesting to think about how that will affect for example transports. Will there be fewer of them? Probably. But maybe that will also force us to make better use of the transports that are actually made?
One idea going in in this direction came to Conny Tengqvist, when he saw the comedy film Sällskapsresan (a film from 1980, which has become a cult classic in Sweden, about an antihero and his friend going to Gran Canaria for holidays, making about every mistake you can possibly think of…).
In the film the protagonist Stig-Helmer is asked by his psycologist to bring a parcel to Gran Canaria for his aunt who lives there. This gave Conny Tengqvist the idea to start the web service Knotmail, that will link people who are anyway going somewhere with people who need to send something. The sender pays a fee which is lower than a “normal” mail service and the traveller earns a bit of this money.
To begin with the service will only be available in Sweden, but the founder ays he hopes to expand to other countries in the future. During the winter students at Linköping University will make an environmental study of Knotmail to see what environmental effects this will actually give.
It sounds good. One thing with the film parallell might be a bit disturbing, though. The parcel that Stig-Helmer brings with him contains money, which turns him (unknowingly) into a smuggler… But according to Knotmail this will be avoided since everyone who is involved will have to prove their identities and be registered.
Magnus Åkerlind, Sophy Elevall, Maximillian Sandgren and Amatheus Elevall.
“We who run this project is a family who wishes that as many people as possible see the film HOME, since we think it can make a real difference”.
That’s how the initiators of a massive screening project of the film HOME present themselves – a “normal” family of four: Magnus Åkerlind, Sophy Elevall, Maximillian Sandgren (nine years) and Amatheus Elevall (three years old) living in the outskirts of Stockholm.
Sophy Elevall explains that since they became so moved by the French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s film about Earth, filmed entirely from above, they wanted others to see it too.
Making a film that already exists available for everyone might sound easy, but when I spoke to Magnus Åkerlind at one of the film screenings I understood that’s not quite the case. He told me that getting the rights to show the film freely from Universal Pictures was a real challlenge. But after long negotiations during the spring, anyone in Sweden can now show it freely to a non-paying audience.
To go with the film, they have also published an ambitious 84 page magazine “Heroes of today” (available as PDF, but only in Swedish), aimed at a young audience and containing ideas of what to do, where to engage and other good examples from all over the world.
– To bring about the transition that scientists are talking about as necessary, it’s not enough just to sort your own waste or change your own light bulbs, you also have to influence and inspire others around you to act, Magnus Åkerlind explained in a TV interview a few weeks ago.
And that’s just what they’ve done. Recently the family got an award as one of the “Environmental Heroes of the year” by the internet site Minplanet.se and World Wide Fund for nature, WWF.
At the translated version of the home page Heroes of today you can read a bit about the project.
The film HOME is by the way free to see at home for anyone with an Internet connection. Watch it here.
… is one of the founders of Sweden’s first climate magazine, Effekt. Seeing the connections between society and nature results in a lot of thoughts about how we live our lives. How are Sweden and its inhabitants setting about the challenges of making our society a more sustainable one? Why is Sweden often rated as one of the world’s most sustainable countries? Do we earn that title? And what have we got left to do?