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Issue 270
January/February 2012
A New Moral Compass

Reviews

A Film for Our Time
by
Engeløya and the distant Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. Photo: Astrid Ardagh

Engeløya and the distant Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. Photo: Astrid Ardagh

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A Film for Our Time

Stephan Harding further explores the idea of an animate Earth in a new film.

This 45-minute film, based on my book Animate Earth, started its life as a dissertation project by Clive Ardagh, a student in Holistic Science at Schumacher College. Clive’s film was meant for small audiences already familiar with many of the themes we explore regularly at Schumacher College, but I began to wonder whether there was scope to create a film suitable for a much wider audience.

I thought there might be a real need for a film to inspire people who want to explore a plausible scientific framework for their nascent animistic appreciation of Nature and for those who are waking up to the possibility of a beneficial partnership with our planet. I was aware, too, that a film could be helpful for people who cannot come to study at Schumacher College or who would not otherwise encounter the idea of an animate Earth, particularly within secondary schools and universities – the very places where the mechanistic worldview is currently nurtured and encouraged.

I had previously met Sally Angel, a film producer who had made many TV series for the BBC, where she had been a senior producer. Sally was also very keen to see if we could make the film accessible to a wider audience. So we set about raising funds from a variety of donors and investors, including The Tedworth Charitable Trust, the Flux Foundation in Norway, ABOCA Ltd in Italy, and, in the UK, The Gaia Foundation and Artists Project Earth (APE). Thanks to these organisations and to a few supportive friends, we raised enough funding to recruit an award-winning team, which included cameraman/director Josh Good and editors Martin Cooper and Sean Mackenzie. During many months of hard work we rewrote the script, added new interviews and new pieces to camera, new sequences and, eventually, transformed the film into a highly professional production with a coherent storyline.

The film begins with my own awakening to the limitations of mainstream science whilst I was at Oxford carrying out my doctoral research on the behavioural ecology of the muntjac deer. The powerful intuitive experiences of the wholeness of Nature that came to me during this time lead us to ask whether scientists need to consciously cultivate their intuitive faculties alongside their conventional powers of reasoning in order to deeply understand Nature. This question takes us into the intuitive science of Goethe, and then enquires whether Goethean science can be fruitfully combined with Lovelock’s Gaia theory to help us develop a deeply participatory understanding of our planet and of our place within it.

The basic message of both book and film is that traditional mechanistic science, wonderful as it is, has inadvertently fuelled the global crisis by convincing us all that the vast world of Nature is nothing more than a mere machine that we can predict and control using reductionist, analytical reasoning. The film explores the idea that we need a new worldview within science and within our culture that integrates conventional scientific reasoning with intuitive knowledge so that we can once again sense our planet as animate: as a great soul or mind, alive and full of a powerful intelligence and wisdom. A major premise of the film is that developing this expanded ‘holistic science’ can help us to move into a viable relationship with the Earth.

I found film to be a powerful medium for communicating these vitally important ideas to a culture that is becoming increasingly visually oriented. The film allows viewers to see and ‘meet’ some of the pioneers of holistic science – Fritjof Capra, Brian Goodwin, Vandana Shiva, for example – and to engage with beautiful images that so eloquently communicate an animistic sensibility for the Earth. It also lends itself well to community building: we suggest that people come together to share a meal, watch the film, and then discuss it using some of our prepared questions as a guide.

As the global crisis deepens, there is a growing receptivity to more holistic ways of seeing the world, so this is truly a film for our times. Deliberately crafted as an unashamed polemic that validates the union of intuition and reason, fact and value and Nature and culture, the film encourages us to reassess our relationship with the Earth by integrating our sensing, feeling and thinking so that we can encounter and participate meaningfully with the living intelligence of our planet. Surely there is no task more important in these critical times.

I hope that you would like to help the message of Animate Earth to continue its journey. Just by buying one DVD you will help us to raise funding for distribution, screenings and a proper website as well as repay the team who worked so hard for no fee.

For further information please email: animate.earth@hotmail.co.uk or visit www.animateearth.com

Stephan Harding is the Resident Ecologist and Head of Holistic Science at Schumacher College.

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