Panel 2: Multi-Genre Narratives of Global Environmental Crisis



Panel 2: Multi-Genre Narratives of Global Environmental Crisis

The Emergence of Climate Change Populism in Ecocinema

Sophie Christman Lavin, Stony Brook University

This presentation will show how contemporary filmmakers use cinematic imaginaries to reveal the speculative fears humans have about global climate change. I argue that climate change populism is a global trend that emerged in early ecocinema film and will explain how filmmakers ultimately express the existential and cultural undercurrents of climate change populism, while interrogating how various socioeconomic classes will fare in the Anthropocene future (more).

Guanaroca: Using a Creation Myth to Raise Awareness of Climate Change

David Taylor, Stony Brook University

Teatro del los Elementos, a theatre group based in Cumanayagua, Cuba, has blended performance, community activism, and sustainability for well over twenty years. Their performance Guanaroca retells the creation myth of the Guanaroca Lagoon, a story that borrows from both Yoruba and Taino mythology. This presentation will discuss the origins of the myth and how Teatro de los Elementos’ performance raises awareness of the lagoon’s peril due to climate change (more).

Stories of Nuclear Disaster and the Anthropocene

Heidi Hutner, Stony Brook University

My talk will focus on my research that includes interviews with victims of nuclear disaster. I will discuss the silencing of nuclear victim stories, and the denial of factual and scientific information on the negative impact of radiation. I will bring in film narratives and literary texts briefly to highlight the cultural/cognitive dissonance between masculinist conceptions of weaponry and energy production, versus stories of mothers, children, indigenous community members, and scientists that counter popular pro-nuclear myths (more).

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) and the Inang Bayan: Postcolonial Environmental Memory and Climate Change in Filipino Ecocritical Writings

Jeffrey Santa Ana, Stony Brook University

This paper studies Filipino ecocritical writings in English (prose, poetry, and narrative) that depict the confrontation between global climate change and diverse cultures across the Philippines. The paper shows how Philippine literary anthologies about Typhoon Yolanda address a global environmental crisis in ways that are inseparable from assessing the effects of (post-) imperial modernity and neocolonialism in the Philippines (more).

Q & A

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18 replies
  1. Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

    In this presentation, I explore how the notion of climate change populism has become a potent transnational trend reflected in global cinema. I suggest that climate change populism—the social condition where ordinary people embody and act on an emerging awareness of the destructive human behaviors that cause climate change—is reflected in cinematic imaginaries that reveal human fears of environmental illness, access to hydro, food, and energy resources, and survival beyond extreme weather events.

    Dear Viewers,
    Thank you for watching my talk and engaging with this nearly carbon-free conference! Have questions or comments? Please feel free to post in the Q & A! I’d also like to know if you recommend any other films that embody the notion of climate change populism. If so, please post here or send me an email:

    • Justyna Poray-Wybranowska, York University says:

      Hi Sophie,
      I really enjoyed your talk. I have only ever seen one of these films, but I will definitely watch the other three now. I like how your analysis of Mad Max touched on its gender politics – I had thought about the film as a critique on climate change and an example of surviving in environmentally compromised spaces/times, but I had not considered the extent to which gender was implicated in framing environmental vulnerability in this narrative.
      Your presentation gave me a lot to think about.

      • Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

        Hi Justyna,
        Thank you for writing! While researching this talk, I found that Miller used a great deal of expensive high-tech equipment to sensationalize and magnify dramatic action in a mostly sterile and quiet Namibian desert. I think it is interesting that this sterility of nature also polarizes and bring to light diverse gender discourses; for instance, some ecofeminist scholars criticize the traditional alignment of females with nature (Greta Gaard, Cate Sandilands, Karen Warren). In looking at how gender is represented in the film, we see traditional models of females aligned with nature (the Wives who are forced to be reproductive breeders), but we also see two examples of females who have adapted to the extreme conditions (The Vulvalinis) and even Furiosa, who initially participates in the androcentric energy economy, but who gains an even greater cultural currency by rescuing the Wives.

        The discourse of labor is embedded in the film, since Furiosa is a laborer who works as a tanker truck driver (whose cargo consists of water and breast milk…) to Gas Town, and, in contrast, the Wives are physical laborers with their impending pregnancies, since they produce offspring and valuable breast milk. Thus, in this speculative discourse, reproduction, centered squarely on females, continues to plague futurity. Circling back to our conference theme–the World in 2050–I wonder if this will still be the case?

    • Márgara Averbach, Universidad de Buenos Aires says:

      Sophie, I have listened to your talk, and I have seen some of the films you talked about. First, let me tell I really enjoyed your talk and learnt a lot with it. As I pointed in one of the talks that I have seen, I think in eco film discussions it is very important to look at Miyasaki films Mononoke and Nausicaa (and Ponyo)… So your talk about the Japanese film (that one I have not seen) was very, very interesting to me in comparison to those two. But mainly, I wanted to discuss a little the idea of “populism”. It is a very open word in meaning and I live in a country where some political right wing trends use it as insult… in a very wrong way, I feel. I would be thankful if you clarify the way you are using it. Thank you very much.

      • Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

        Hi Margara,
        What a great question! Thanks so much for participating in this discussion! I found Takahata’s ecofilm Pom Poko very interesting since the narrative is especially designed for young viewers (not many of those…) and the story integrates the historic mistakes of urban planning that have exacerbated climate change. The film’s message also models advocacy, a trait quite useful to those young viewers inheriting the dilemmas of climate change.

        Your query about my use of the word populism gave me food for thought. Populism, in the US, has historically been used as a reference to the American populist party that originated in the late nineteenth-century, and took up issues important to farm workers. Etymologically, the word derives from Latin–populus–meaning “a nation, or body of citizens, a people.” So in my theorization about climate change populism, my intent was to show the globalized national trends comprised of everyday people in various nations–including filmmakers, etc.–who are responding to the threats of climate change.

        I hear what you are saying when you identify the other connotations, in your country, that are associated with the word that are more negative in nature. And that leads me to wonder how what we call Third Cinema (although I think this is a hegemonic misnomer), deals with issues of climate change. Does that make sense?

        The other reason I use the term is to work towards creating a global infrastructure of climate change activists–a populist movement. My goal derives from a very specific incident where a few years ago I myself was targeted at a very large conference by someone from “Accuracy in Academia” who claimed I misread and tried to “green” a particular author (I did prove the author was “green”!). Accuracy in Academia is an American watchdog group (started by the conservative former Chairmen of the Federal Reserve…) that targets academics in all ways. Others in our country have been targeted by fossil fuel industry, etc. So a good example of climate change populism would be the 2015 People’s Climate March that took place in NYC. I participated and it was wonderful to see so many everyday people, concerned citizens working to eradicate climate change.
        Just thinking here. Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

        • Márgara Averbach, Universidad de Buenos Aires says:

          Let us see, thank you for answering…, first of all. Populism is to us, supporters of the governments which in South America founded the Mercosur (Lula and Dilma (up to a certain point in the second case) in Brazil, Chavez in Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador, Mujica in Uruguay, Lugo in Paraguay (again, up to a certain point) and in my country Nestor and Cristina Kirchner. We consider the word positive but the conservative people here, and in my country specifically anti peronists (too long to explain what peronism is here… and too complex, books on that…) who we call “gorillas” (not fair for the animals) consider “populism” an insult. What happens now is that my country and Brazil have stopped these experiments in populism and we have conservative governments. Chavez and Nestor Kirchner are dead… and we go on fighting. Anyway, I wanted to really understand your meaning and now I have.
          As regards how we deal here with the “green” issues…, well, not too great, of course. Even the populist governments tried (Correa specifically asked for help in a very, very intersting experiment and could not stop oil extraction, you can google it up, I think it is again too long to explain it here) but did not succeed in taking that as an important issue. Here, the country was much better under the Kirchners (you will find people who hate them here, and specifically Cristina who, as a woman, received more criticism and of a less ethical kind) but the ecology problems were not in the agenda. You can read Naomi Klein’s comments on this in her This changes all.
          As regards academia…, well, here it is kind of the same and luckily, here we do not have such a deep interest in “success”. I have paid dearly for the way I teach US Literature here… and for the theory I chose to do it with… I do not think that here Universities are targeted by companies because of this. There are insults and the rest in politics, the Academy has what we call “internas” of its own. What is being targeted is our very healthy idea of making University free of charge for everybody. That will be attacked by the new government. The one before really defended the idea and created new universities.

    • Jeffrey Santa Ana, Stony Brook University says:

      Hi Sophie,
      I’ve just watched your excellent talk again and have done so after reading the first 63 pages of Amitov Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable. One of Ghosh’s main arguments is how the novel, as a western cultural product that developed in the nineteenth century, has traditionally been about the “regularity of bourgeois life” (58). He contends that one of the reasons the novel has been slow to grasp the scale and violence of climate change is because the settings within the novel are “constructed out of discontinuities” (59). He further writes, “Since each setting [in the novel] is particular to itself, its connections to the worlds beyond are inevitably made to recede (as, for example, with the imperial networks that make possible the worlds portrayed by Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë). Unlike epics, novels do not usually bring multiple universes into conjunction; nor are their settings transportable outside their context in the manner of, say, the Ithaca of the Odyssey or the Ayodhya of the Ramayana. In novels discontinuities of space are accompanied also by discontinuities of time: a setting usually requires a ‘period’; it is actualized within a certain time horizon…. The long durée is not the territory of the novel” (59). This temporal and spatial problem of representing climate change in the novel (i.e., how the novel is unable to grasp imaginatively the vast scale of climate change; what Ghosh refers to as “unthinkable magnitude” in the novel) provokes me to ask how is it that cinema (in particular, ecocinema) can represent the scale of climate change, whereas the novel, as Ghosh contends, cannot? Why and how can cinema, particularly world cinema, incorporate climate change populism in its visual frame to represent the “unthinkable magnitude” of climate change? In the films you discuss so beautifully in your talk, what formal features or technical details specific to world cinema enable the films to represent climate change (i.e., to imagine persuasively the magnitude of climate change)?

      I have another question, and it has to do with another of Ghosh’s compelling points of argument. He writes, “The Anthropocene has reversed the temporal order of modernity; those at the margins are now the first to experience the future that awaits all of us; it is they who confront most directly what Thoreau called ‘vast, Titanic, inhuman nature'” (62-63). Ghosh is specifically referring to the disappearance of islands in Papua New Guinea on which indigenous people have lived for tens of thousands of years; the mangrove forests on these islands that have sustained indigenous people of New Guinea are dying out because of rising seas from melting polar ice caps. This is happening throughout the Pacific Islands, as you likely know. Ghosh’s argument here is a provocative and disturbing point about how those indigenous people excluded and exploited by modernity (and what modernity means as central to the Anthropocene) are now the first people to be devastated by the consequence of a fossil-fueled modernity that is climate change. Do any of the films you discuss in your talk represent the Anthropocene in this way? To what extent does climate change populism in ecocinema bring into our understanding the condition of environmental migrants or climate refugees?

      • Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

        Hi Jeff,
        Thank you for your excellent comments and questions! I attended Ghosh’s keynote lecture last year at the CUNY “Oceans 19: Victorian Transoceanic Studies” conference, and it was fascinating. I will admit here that I have not yet read The Great Derangement, but with your excellent citations, I feel I can respond to your queries. Let me address your four questions below:

        Q1: You ask (and I paraphrase here): “How is it that ecocinema and world cinema can incorporate the SCALE of climate change, whereas novels, as Ghosh contends, cannot?” First, let me say with great humility that I depart from Ghosh’s claim, since my research has revealed many nineteenth-century British and American novelists and prose writers (John Stuart Mill, George Perkins Marsh, Octavia Hill, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskill, etc.) who did register concerns in their works about the vast environmental eradication caused by the industrial era; many emerging scholars (myself included) are now recovering these discourses, using what ecocritic Jesse Oak Taylor has termed “strategic presentism” in our research.

        I would argue that the literary device of setting in novels does present an opportunity to apprehend the continuous scales of environmental degradation. Ghosh suggests that settings are discontinuous, and that therefore they serve only as latent references to the subtended imperial networks that helped cause the Anthropocene. Perhaps my reader response of literature conflicts with Ghosh’s experience as an author of eight novels (many of which focus on cultural discourses of the Indian Ocean). In his works he must discern the value of setting, and how this discernment limits or expands the narrative. Filmmakers struggle with setting as well, since just as the montage in film derives from the editing of a sequence of shots in a particular setting, literary settings derive from a network of words, paragraphs, and places that hold referential, and I would argue, secondary meanings. I would like to think more deeply about this idea—of reference, or referent–in terms of setting. Film settings can serve as imaginative reproductions of particular realities, and I would argue likewise in literature, that setting is a symbolic referent that always refer to a larger “worlding” comprised of networks that mark continuous connections. So perhaps a literary or film setting must always be measured against its own boundaries.

        For instance, in the narrative strategy of Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847), the character of Bertha is constructed to indicate what Gilbert and Gubar call the “madwoman in the attic.” At first glance, the character would seem to conform to Ghosh’s theory of discontinuity, since Bertha is, in terms of setting, locked in Rochester’s English attic. But, Bronte’s ambiguous racialization of the character as ethnic Creole (Creole’s were associated with native Caribbean populations, and thus “othered” by white Europeans) actually serves as a continuous referent that makes visible imperialism’s global networks that exploited and “othered” those outside the hegemonic English world.

        Another, stronger point I want to make to rebut Ghosh’s argument that literature, and in particular setting, fails to address Anthropocentric scale can be revealed in nineteenth-century science: Charles Lyell, a geologist, published The Principles of Geology (1830-33), positing the theory of uniformitarianism that claimed geological processes were the result of millions of years of earth’s evolutionary stratigraphy (thus upsetting the theory of the day—catastrophism). In short, Lyell found that the layers in rock formations referenced earlier, MULTI-SCALAR geologic periods in earth’s history. Lyell’s work focused on the idea of vast geological SCALES that prompted nineteenth-century scientists to begin to conceptualize the four-billion year old continuous history of our planet.

        This notion of scale found in Lyell’s work was adapted in nineteenth-century literature, such as social problem novels that detail the disproportionate scales of the suffering poor (Oliver Twist), as well as the factory novel sub-genre that polarizes the working poor against the bourgeoisie, including Gaskell’s North and South. And the issue of scale is reflected in mid and end-of the-century prose such as George Perkins Marsh’s Man and Nature: Or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (1864), and Ruskin’s “Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth-Century” (1884). I might suggest here that nineteenth-century authors, illustrators, and artists actually anticipated the vast scales of climate change by representing the disproportionate amount of industrial pollution in their works. The important question that we can only now ask in hindsight is: why did readers, citizens, and legislators disavow these early warning calls?

        Q2: “How can world cinema incorporate the notion of Climate Change Populism in cinematic frames to represent the scale of climate change?” First, a number of scholars have theorized how cinema can represent scales of climate change. Scott Macdonald first theorized the term “ecocinema.” His work posits that different types of films that focus on the environment—ecocinema ones—can help “immerse” us in nature and thus heighten our awareness of the natural world. Recent scholarship has focused on cognitivist theories that provoke affect, emotion or cognition in viewers (see Alexa Weik von Mossner’s “Introduction” in Moving Environments). For instance, David Ingram uses cognitivist film theory to claim that films establish an “emotional relationship” (he uses Smith’s notion here) to destabilize anthropocentric behaviors. A good example here are animal agriculture documentaries, including the 2009 documentary The Cove (Psihoyos), which details Japan’s dolphin hunting practices, and Andersen and Kuhn’s 2014 Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. In The Cove, viewers are witness to scenes in which dolphins are slaughtered, and Cowspiracy provides a huge array of discomforting information about how flesh economies exacerbate climate change (Greta Gaard has also taken up this topic with her article on milk). Moreover, scholars like Adrian Ivakhiv (Ecologies of the Moving Image) discuss the triangulation of filmic scales in terms of the film’s narrative, the viewer’s experience, and the film’s relationship with earth. This type of eco-film-philosophy alters our “experience of territory” and thus helps us to conceptually understand issues of scale with climate change.

        One way in which world cinemas have incorporated my notion of climate change populism—“the emerging social condition where ordinary people embody and act on their emerging awareness of the destructive human behaviors that cause climate change”—is through documentaries that show repeated cinematic images AND data that demonstrate the aggregational quality to climate change. For instance, the film Climate Refugees combines shots of the many diverse climate refugees around the world with multiple data sets, and the film Chasing Ice combines numerous shots of glacier melts along with aggregational data collected over time.

        World cinemas can also create transnational climate fiction scripts that embed realism in national, bioregional, or transnational settings. By this I mean narratives that set up plot problems around real climate change issues, portraying diverse types of ordinary characters (from various transnational perspectives) who take responsibility for their behaviors and offer redemptive responses. Realism is an important element here, since there are many speculative climate fiction films (Avatar, Elysium, etc.) that are hardly realistic. As I discuss in my talk, Mad Max: Fury Road offers numerous climate change discourses, but they are couched in the film’s spectacle of extreme shots, etc., so they are highly entertaining, but hardly educational.
        World cinemas could also benefit from a scholarly lexicon, a terminology, of eco-cinematography techniques. I analyze cinematic techniques in my own film work (analyzing over-the-shoulder shots, angle, depth of field, extreme close ups, etc.), but to my knowledge, there is no specific text focusing on the methods of environmental cinematography. (If anyone knows of one, please chime in here!)

        Q3: What formal features/tech details specific to world cinema enable films to represent climate change? New scholarship has recently provided research in this area; Pietra Kaapa’s Ecology and Contemporary Nordic Cinema focuses on eco-discourses in Nordic national cinema, such as a genre called “The Nordic Deer Western,” and a discourse of ‘natured gender’ which offers the potential for revisionist masculinity. Lu and Mi’s Chinese Ecocinema proposes a “critical grid” that conceptualizes networks beyond the geographic boundaries of nation-states. And Gustafsson and Kaapa’s Transnational Ecocinema rethinks ecocinematic discourses through boundary crossings that reach beyond the Hollywood and national cinema model. Their text considers a number of transnational issues within ecocinema, including the climate change costs associated with the global production, distribution, and reception of films.

        In lieu of an eco-cinematography lexicon that identifies specific techniques, as mentioned above, there are numerous devices filmmakers use; for instance, cinematographers choose aesthetic options to emphasize corporeal bodies, such as cross cut shots of slaughtered animals that then cut to animal byproducts like leather goods. (I use animal agriculture examples here because World Watch Institute has indicated that animal agriculture produces 51% of annual worldwide GHG emissions). Cinematographers also make use of space- earth imaging (seen in the images of earth in Inconvenient Truth) and time-lapsed shots of glaciers melting (such as Chasing Ice). In Pom Poko, an animated film, there is a time-lapsed shot that begins with a Japanese mountain that is slowly overtaken with tractor plows, housing developments, etc. while trees and wildlife diminish. The film Climate Refugees also represents the vast scales of climate change by using space-earth imaging, coupled with many transnational shots that represent the diverse population of almost 25 million climate refugees struggling for survival amidst rising waters, food shortages, and border migrations. An important feature is the witness position that is featured in the film, and its focus on underserved populations. Wide angle shots that show the destruction of entire neighborhoods due to extreme weather events, as well as long shots of outdoor shelters hosting thousands are prominent in the film.

        In my talk, I also make reference to the more whimsical (but still serious) cinematography in Mood Indigo; one montage shows how the character Chloe becomes blighted by environmental illness—the shots first show how Chloe travels through a polluted factory town, and then while sleeping, a tracking shot is used of a mesothelioma-like flake that enters her hotel room; she unknowingly ingests it, becoming sick. This art cinema film also uses a split-screen shot to imaginatively portray human manipulation of the weather—on one side of the screen Chloe is enjoying a picnic lunch on a lovely day, yet her partner is on the other side of the screen suffering through a rain storm.

        Q4: “The Anthropocene ironically reverses the temporal order of modernity by first devastating indigenous and underserved populations, such as those who live in Papua New Guinea.” I think I need to tease apart your query, since I think you might be gesturing more towards an ethos of SCALE here than a sequence of temporal events. In these times, populations all over the world have been impacted by climate change—the indigenous Alaskan village of Shishmaref decided in 2016 to move its ancestral home as a result of climate change. The 2003 heat wave in France killed almost 14,000 people. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 caused 285 deaths and $30 billion dollars in damage. We must distinguish between these groups, such as the indigenous Alaskan and Papua New Guineans, who are, as Ghosh describes, on the “margins,” or vastly invisible, exploited, underserved, and unprepared for the realities of climate change. Other groups, such as the French, or Long Islanders, have also recently been devastated by climate change, too, but, unlike indigenous groups, they are by and large not exploited, not underserved, not invisible.

        My larger point here is that I think Ghosh’s notion correctly gestures towards the DISPROPORTIONATE effects of climate change on underserved and exploited populations, caused by growth economy nations. This, to me, is a question of global social justice. I am interested in how scholars like Suzanne Moser (who is engaged in helping policy makers understand how best to plan for the future castrostrophic future scenarios of climate change—see her text Successful Adaptation to Climate Change)–will address the issues of disproportionate impact. And literary and cultural scholars are also now training their lenses towards the global south (Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence, and Slovic, Rangarajan, and Sarveswaran’s Ecocriticism of the Global South).

        Since we were limited to 20 minutes for our talks, I cut my treatment of the film The Island President (2011) which details how the former President of The Maldives (in the Indian Ocean) created a global awareness of the threats that climate change and rising sea levels pose to the 1200 island nation state. The entire country (all 1200 islands) are predicted to be submerged by 2100! In this film, President Nasheed stages spectacular underwater shots showing himself and his cabinet signing documents calling for reductions in carbon emissions. Other wide angle shots show the President knee deep in water, explaining how the coming rising seas of climate change will eradicate his nation. Read “The Climate of Ecocinema” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Communication for more info ( Given the chance, I would be extremely interested to hear Ghosh’s response to the value of this film that focuses on the Indian Ocean.

        Finally, as I mentioned in another post, climate change populism derives from the Latin—populus—meaning “a nation, a body of citizens, a people.” The term is part of my larger dissertation project that assumes sustainability must be tied to infrastructures of statecraft, and thus, the larger concept that I am theorizing of “the sustainable citizen.”

        The sustainable citizen theory falls short, in that it excludes non-citizens AND non-human others (and this is a trend that other scholars are working on, namely in terms of animal citizenships—see Zoopolis). But my sustainable citizenship theory offers a corrective by embedding a supererogatory ethic that demands advocacy for those who are not citizens, such as environmental migrants and refugees, or, a group of people—a populus—impacted by climate change.

        Ultimately, I think the coming times will create polemical shifts in how we categorize, understand, and legislate the status of multi-species groups of beings (including human animals). If you notice above, the definition of populus conflates human animals with statecraft. So your distinction between climate REFUGEE and climate MIGRANT will be an important global one in terms of future policy planning and aide (we’ve already seen US climate resilience grants funded for climate refugees). Refugees possess political status, but migrants, according to the UN, do not. So, in summary: two important thing ecocinema filmmakers can do in examining climate change populism is to (1) utilize a supererogatory ethos to distinguish the legal and cultural experiences of the many future (and often invisible) climate refugees and climate migrants, and (2) present aggregational images and data that act as witness to the long duree of global warming.

        • Márgara Averbach, Universidad de Buenos Aires says:

          Hi, all. I have not read Gosh really so I am speaking only around your talk and the discussion here. But there are books who depict this in a big scale, the one I mentioned in the Conference by John Brunner, The crucible of time, is one, it does follow the development of technology needed through centuries and in the whole planet. The same can be said about Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Silko, in a different way, of course.
          Yet, I think, there is also the other way of doing this: you can take just one place, small local place and see the changes there. That is what books such as “Solar Storms” by Linda Hogan where local people, who have lived in the place forever can see the change happening. So… I am not really sure that it cannot be done in literature.
          Thank you for your talk, it opened new ways to go for me…

  2. Andrew Rimby, Stony Brook University says:

    Dear Sophie,

    I really enjoyed how you read the sterility in relation to how gender is represented in Mad Max. I thought the cinematic photos that you chose really allowed me to visualize how climate change populism is present in the films you have chosen. This was really enjoyable to watch!


  3. Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for watching my video, and thank you for your comments! I think it is interesting how Mad Max polarizes the hegemonic view of women and nature against the feminist hero Furiosa and the Vulvalinis. Even though women are disproportionately impacted by climate change, climate change populism implicates women’s adverse impact on global warming too. And, what do you think about fertility being polarized against the sterile images of the desert?


  4. Jeffrey Santa Ana, Stony Brook University says:

    Dear viewers,

    Thank you kindly for watching my talk and for presenting your own work in this conference. I’d appreciate any feedback or questions you might have for me. My talk is based, in part, on my current book project titled Postcolonial Environmental Memory: Remembering Place and the Natural World in the Asian-Pacific Diaspora. The book examines the relationship between cultural memory, environmental ruin, ecocriticism, and the global movement of people in the postcolonial Asia-Pacific region. I’d very much like to know your suggestions for other research or literature on the topics of postcolonial environmentalism/ecocriticism, environmental migrants and refugees, and environmental memory, especially in relation to the Asia-Pacific region. My email:

    Kind thanks,

  5. Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I enjoyed your presentation! I am wondering in your book project how you might address the effects on Asian Pacific cultural and environmental memories as a result of being embedded in Anglophone hegemonies.

    Also, if you plan to work on film, you might consider Mendoza’s Taklub (Trap, 2015), since it describes people’s memories in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.

    • Jeffrey Santa Ana, Stony Brook University says:

      Hi Sophie,
      Thank you kindly for your thoughtful question. I also very much appreciate your suggestion that I consider the film Taklun for my book. I definitely added this film to my postcolonial eco-cinema chapter, after you mentioned this film to me last year. The other films I am including in this chapter are Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host, Philip Noyce’s Rabbit Proof Fence, and Takashi Miike’s The Bird People in China. If you know of other Asian-Pacific films in which postcolonial ecologies/environmentalisms are central themes, please let me know.

      Your question about how might I address in my project the effects on Asian Pacific cultural and environmental memories as a result of being embedded in Anglophone hegemonies is a helpful one. One way to answer your question is to consider how some, if not most, of the poets in the literary anthology AGAM live in the Philippines (a country formerly colonized by the United States) and write their poems in both English and their native Philippine language. And also, these poets incorporate into their poems literary and artistic conventions that are Western and European. For instance, in the poem “He Said” that I read in my talk, Ricardo de Ungria (the author) incorporates into his poem literary devices that are familiar to Western and European georgic verse. I’ll explain further: Reminiscing on images of agricultural bounty—the “palay [rice] sold at the market” and a “harvest day” nourishing the family “table [that] was always full”— the farmer in “He Said” longingly recalls a more prosperous time that a balanced and thriving ecosystem once provided. This imagery of a flourishing agrarian economy enabling the farmer “to bring home many blessings” is conventional to georgic verse emphasizing ecological and spiritual dwelling for agrarians and rural folk who rely on a healthy and stable natural environment for agricultural productivity. For the poem’s farmer, his precise observance of the “right day of the month” to plant the seeds of his rice fields implies an agricultural relationship with the environment that is ancestral, ritualistic, and viable. And to the extent that the farmer has learned to live and work on the island through the memory of his forebears who also prospered sustainably on the island for successive generations, de Ungria’s poem uses the trope of dwelling to imply, in the words of Greg Garrard, “the long-term imbrication of humans in a landscape of memory, ancestry and death, of ritual, life and work” (Ecocriticism 118). Sophie, the short answer to your question is that these eco-poems from the Philippines that are about climate change’s devastating impact on rural and agricultural life in the Philippines are clearly hybrid works linguistically, culturally, and historically insofar as they are both in English and in native Philippine languages, and the poems reflect Western/European literary conventions, and they also emerge from histories of United States colonialism, imperialist incursion, and neocolonial development schemes in the Philippines.

      One question that I have for you concerns the film Mad Max: Fury Road. I am teaching this film in a few weeks in my Global Films Traditions class (an introduction to world cinema for undergraduates). When I taught this film last year, one of my students mentioned that she had read an article which stated that the film’s director, George Miller, severely damaged the Namib desert in Africa where he had shot his film. The student then said that she had difficulty reconciling the film’s ecofeminist politics with the fact that Miller (and his film crew) damaged severely the Namib desert’s landscape. I’m curious to know what you would say to this student if you were teaching this film in an ecocinema class and also you were getting your students to think critically about ecofeminist politics in ecocinema. Here is a link to the article the student mentioned:

      • Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

        Hi Jeff,
        For your eco-cinema chapter, you might consider the article I recently co-authored with Ann Kaplan, “The Climate of Ecocinema” (forthcoming from Oxford Encyclopedia:–I can send you proof. In it we detail the theoretical lineage of ecocinema, and also provide some case studies. One other film you might use is Pom Poko. It is an animated children’s film, that details the Tama Housing Development project. The film details wildlife habitats that were eradicated by urban overdevelopment, as well as the advocacy efforts used by those impacted by urban blight. Check it out!

        Thank you for explaining the Anglophone embeddedness in the literary anthology AGAM. When I asked the question, I was thinking of other postcolonial narratives, like James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when Stephen starts the novel with linguistic nostalgia “…once upon a time…there was a moocow…”. Of course, this nostalgia is ironic since Stephen is thinking in English, not Gaelic, as a result of British occupation. Later, in Ulysses, Stephen realizes the British as “usurpers” of language, etc. So I like your idea of hybridity deriving from colonialism.

        Concerning your student’s legitimate difficulty reconciling Mad Max’s ecofeminist politics with the environmental degradation caused by its production, I would open a discussion on climate change and the ethics of consumerism; films are ultimately products produced for consumer culture. It is true that Miller and his team denigrated the environment and probably created huge amounts of pollution and e-waste in the film’s production. But, I would also stress the reality that, Namibia, as a global south country that will be disproportionately impacted by climate change, was “delighted” to host the film crews–gaining almost $370 million dollars, employing 900 staff, and receiving $150 million dollars in tax revenues. This is not unlike other countries–India, Cuba, China, for instance–that use their resources in order to promote growth economies. So, circling back to the idea of consumerism–film products are imaginaries that certainly enhance our lives, but they also exceed the requirements for subsistence living that those in the global south struggle daily to achieve. This begs the question: are we, as film consumers, contributing to the slow violence of countries like Namibia by patronizing films like Mad Max? So I think consideration of the ethical issues involving both the production and consumption of products is a larger question for students to discuss going forward.

        • Jeffrey Santa Ana, Stony Brook University says:

          Thank you, Sophie. I very much appreciate your reply. I look forward to reading your article, “The Climate of Ecocinema.” In a couple of weeks, my film studies class will begin watching ecocinema films in our last unit (Dystopia and Environmental Apocalypse). The films they will watch are Children of Men, Take Shelter, and Mad Max Fury Road. If your article discusses these films, I will definitely assign it for my students to read, and I’m sure it will enrich their reading of the films.

          The question you ask (“Are we, as film consumers, contributing to the slow violence of countries like Namibia by patronizing films like Mad Max?”) is a really important one, especially as it pertains to big Hollywood films about the Vietnam War that have used formerly colonized and impoverished countries in the equatorial belt, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, as sets for recreating war destruction. Coppola’s filming of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines, for instance, is a good example of how a film about the Vietnam War’s horrific destruction of rural people and land was mirrored by Coppola’s excessive destruction of jungles and landscapes in the Philippines; for example, Coppola notoriously napalmed Philippine forests in order to recreate the war for his film, and ended up destroying these forests; and all this was done under the blessing of the Philippines’ dictator Ferdinand Marcos who, along with his cronies, pocketed all the money that Coppola paid the Philippine government to use (i.e., destroy) the Philippines’ physical landscape for his film. The rural Filipino people and farmers whose lands were exploited and devastated for the film never received any compensation. The Filipino American writer Jessica Hagedorn wrote about this in her novel Dream Jungle. So, yes, I would say that we as consumers in rich nations like the US are definitely contributing to the slow violence in post- and neo-colonized countries like the Philippines (and Namibia) when our entertainment consumer habits and practices are directly linked to environmental devastation in those countries.

          Thanks again for getting our Q&A started! Yours warmly, Jeff

  6. Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

    Hi Heidi,
    I learned a great deal from your talk! The 1950s’s films (Five, On the Beach, Milk) really demonstrate the many early cultural concerns about nuclear disaster. And it is frightening to learn that females bear disproportionate health effects due to radiation (Greta Gaard has made that case in her research as well, concerning women and climate change). The contemporary perspectives of nuclear disaster victims, especially the ways in which maternal voices are emphasized in recent film, science, and activism to disrupt statecraft, show a positive impact for futurity–perhaps in 2050! What do you think?

    Your talk also made me think about the role of witnessing in film and media as a restorative justice remedy. I am thinking of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that allowed witness testimony describing the impact of apartheid. I wonder if it is idealistic to think that some world body might propose a similar type of global nuclear victims reconciliation project? Or perhaps your many interviews with victims, scientists, and mothers could be turned into a documentary? Just thoughts!

  7. Sophie Christman Lavin, SUNY Stony Brook says:

    Hi David,
    I enjoyed your talk about how the Guanaroca myth is serving to highlight climate change issues at the lagoon! The witnessing of local examples of climate change, such as these, are important in demonstrating the multiple ways in which communities will be impacted.

    I visited Cuba last year, so I understand the communication issues the country must have about issues of climate change. It is interesting that organic farming began not as a remedy for global warming, but as a necessary measure to ensure access to food resources after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    One question I would like to ask is: is Cuba proactively developing policy plans to curb the environmental impact that tourists will bring to the island? And are they engaging in environmental impact studies with all the hotel developers that are now creating huge built environments along the coastlines of Cuba?

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