Crisis. Climate Emergency. Existential threat. These words are becoming commonplace in our day to day vocabulary, but they somehow feel intangible, distancing us from the threat of climate change.
Last Thursday, a nearly full moon lit up my living room as I settled in to watch Cornwall’s Climate Stories. A new series of short documentaries, created by the charity Cornwall Climate Care, exploring the toll climate change is already taking on Cornwall. The first documentary in the series, Under the Surface, looked at how a changing environment is affecting marine life on our Cornish coasts.
This article is as much a show of gratitude to producer Clare Wallerstein and director Bryony Stokes as it is a review. I want to say thank you to them for being honest, and for being real about the state of things, but also for the hope they evoked in me as an audience member. More than just informative, the documentary is pragmatic in its presentation of environmental issues. It gives us a way out, and it comes perfectly timed at a turning point for not just Cornwall but the world.
The pandemic has shown us that we are capable of changing our behaviour drastically in the face of crisis, and the same needs to be done for climate change. Global carbon emissions saw significant drops as lockdowns came into place all over the world, and then spiked back to pre-COVID levels immediately as lockdowns were eased again.
Human behaviour, as is evidenced in the documentary, is causing the deterioration of the planet on a scale that is difficult to quantify. At the UN’s Security Council meeting that coincided with the release of this series, Naturalist David Attenborough warned that “we are perilously close to tipping points that once passed will send global temperatures spiralling catastrophically higher. If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security.”
Under the Surface captures this sense of urgency, and also offers simple changes that we can make to help address it. It is humbling in every way. Despite filming under lockdown restrictions and without the backing of a production crew, this film is wonderful. It does not over-romanticise, nor does it understate, and it makes climate change seem that little bit more human.