City Living, Nature Calling – an ecomythic film for our times

CLNC light thumbnail

 What better way to support the new myth, the ‘big story’ that is growing within and around us in response to our need to treat the earth better, than to make a film. Film is the great myth-making machine of the modern era. And when impactful visuals are combined with convincing narration, documentary film can help change the world. This is what is intended for City Living, Nature Calling, an ecologically inspired documentary film that shows how modern societies can be adapted to meet the challenges of climate change and bring more balance to human/ecosystem relations.

City Living, Nature Calling is an ecomythic documentary, a story for our times that points out that the dominant myth of the modern world has been one that promised technological abundance for all. Nowadays we know that this is a convenient fiction and our hearts, minds, bodies and souls draw us on to the next grand vision of life in balance, of flourishing life for all on this beautiful planet. This doco draws upon our innate care for our home, wherever we live, even when our ‘natural environment’ has become a landscape of city grids, motorized traffic and credit cards, tall buildings lit at night and bustling pedestrians on mobile phones. City Living, Nature Calling offers answers to the ‘big story’ of modern society by looking first at how we got here and then at how technology can work hand-in-hand with respect for nature to heal our wounded world.

 geoff Berry insitu

City Living, Nature Calling opens with a story about how humanity evolved, over countless millennia, in close contact with wild nature, before so many of us moved into cities with the rise of civilization. The doco shows how the current ecological crisis is exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the human race now live in urban environments, which now dominate the planet and its ecology, drawing energy and resources up from the planet around them. It points out we all love our home to some extent, but that transferring our loyalties from the countryside to the city leaves us alienated from our ancestral place in nature. The ‘big picture’ that this film presents is that we need to relearn how to fit in with the cycles and limits of nature rather than assuming that our advanced technologies will continue to provide us with abundance.

Author and narrator Dr Geoffrey Berry draws on his academic research into the mythic history of civilization from an ecologically-informed perspective. So rather than presenting a merely materialistic account about the benefits and dangers of technology, his work also investigates the timelessly shifting mysteries of symbolic stories and their relationship to human consciousness. Geoff asks questions like: how do we think and behave in terms of the kind of environment we grow up in? And what effect do our technologies have upon our attitudes and feelings (and vice versa)? These questions led him to uncover the mythic substrata of human consciousness and the way great symbolic narratives motivate human behavior according to certain historical and environmental contexts.

City Lights at Night - a Planetary Perspective

      How we love to light our cities at night …

Geoff’s ecomythic presentation in City Living, Nature Calling aims to motivate mainstream populations towards ecological adaptation by reminding us that the home we love includes city and country, in a wider sense of biodiversity. But just as importantly, the doco also discusses the modern myths that are holding us back from the rapid and systemic transformation required of us today. Geoff’s research into myth and symbol taught him that these powerful stories and images convince us that the way we live is natural and ‘true,’ as if they (and therefore we) are aligned with some greater reality beyond the material world. His work led him to the discovery that we still live by a dominant myth, a dangerous misconception that is now being dismantled by environmental science and our collective recognition that we cannot continue exploiting the world forever.

The ‘dominant myth’ that Geoff uncovers in modern society is that we can endlessly consume the earth’s resources as if they were unlimited; it is an ‘eternal feast’ in our modern cities of light. This vision implies that we have overcome the vagaries of seasonal cycles, which afflicted traditional societies with famine (as well as providing feast). We know such afflictions still threaten us, but somehow the imagery of modern consumption works to avert our eyes from this reality and draws us instead to constantly dream of the glowing treasure available at the end of the shopping aisle. For more on how this kind of dreaming can be adapted to the limits of nature, please see the film trailer and crowd funding campaign at www.startsomegood.com/clnc

Geoff headshot Belonging

Following a successful funding campaign, Geoff and film maker Darcy Gladwin will head out to ask experts in fields such as climate science, renewable power, permaculture design and urban development how we can adapt better to ecological limit, right now. Geoff also aims to interview other kinds of influential voices such as Aboriginal elders and politicians. This footage will then be interspersed with visually poetic reflections on the big questions of our times. Join the many of us already on board the City Living, Nature Calling movement!

 

 

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Kyrgios and Goodes – Australian sports, Reconciliation and Suicide

When an Australian tennis player gets roundly condemned for sledging an opposition player, no-one is going to be very surprised. It pains good sports that Australians have given themselves a name for unsportsmanlike behaviour; our cricket team is legendary for its sledging, taunting opposition batsmen consistently, prying for psychological weakness in an attempt to weaken their skills. It’s defended as part of the game and goodness knows there’s no point holding our breath waiting for gentlemanly conduct to return to the arena anytime soon. But it doesn’t reflect well on our humanity, all this undermining of others in order to gain advantage, and it needs to be condemned on behalf of a better society – one that enjoys sport for pleasure, for testing ability against another, for the pursuit of athletic excellence without psychological warfare.

Krygios

But the condemnation that will rightly meet this young tennis player’s bogan* outburst can also be channelled back into another opportunity to revisit what has been recently raised by Adam Goodes. Because where Krygios is simply uncultivated and uncouth – an embarrassment – and at fault, in the case of Goodes, we have the sportsman taking the moral high ground and the fans revealing their bogan natures. (In answer to the question, why aren’t other Aboriginal players booed on the field, the answer seems easy: Goodes is booed because he made public the racist undercurrent of Australian society. Those fickle fans who boo Goodes are shooting the messenger.)

Goodes

And one of the thing Goodes added to the conversation through the whole sorry saga was the plight of being an Aboriginal Australian in 2015. Not the frontier wars, which we bury under as much pioneering blather as we can, so that we don’t have to think about the way an entire race was decimated in order that the colonists could possess the land. That’s history, which needs to be better understood and further discussed; but this is now. The chronic health problems, the structural inequality, the grog, the unemployment – all of which are also being improved on the ground by creative programs spearheaded and managed by Aboriginal people themselves – this all needs to be talked about in the mass media, every day, until this land is healed and its people live in genuine mutual respect.

 

But there’s another problem, which has been increasingly haunting Aboriginal populations in recent years: the spectre of suicide. How do we respond to the suicide epidemic amongst indigenous youth – and, while I was in Western Australia recently, the suicide of a mother of an indigenous youth that had previously killed himself – right here, now, in Australia? (The story was reported here. I won’t publish the picture or name of the lady.)
We respond with compassion, first.
Then, with questions.

Why? This has to be the first question. What conditions, what kind of society do we live in, that could allow this to happen? This is taking the question to its radical conclusion, as well as down to its roots. Any suicide diminishes the community. It should be a rare occurrence, a final option only for the most bereft, the soul who has lost everything and just can’t take it anymore. We can then learn to let them go, with sadness, because we can understand. But when suicide becomes something that registers as a significant percentage of deaths in any community, we have a problem. This is now the case with Aboriginal Australians. And it hadn’t always been this way.

 

Aboriginal suicidesRates of suicide, Northern Territory, 1981-2002 – note dramatic increase in male victims.

So, as a wider community, as a nation, we need to talk about this. Why would a living member of the oldest surviving human culture on the planet kill themselves? What is missing in their cultural tool kit that leaves them open to this sorry demise? It’s a contemporary version of a ‘clash of cultures,’ of course; an ancient way of life forced under the yoke of modernity by people with new technologies, desire for ownership, and all of the Guns, Germs and Steel as described by Jared Diamond in his great book on global colonisation. But suicide prompts not just big picture, structural arguments that show how such situations arise; it requires a moral examination, a set of questions that also include how people relate to each other in everyday life. In order to improve the non-Indigenous population of Australian society – to be a better people, with more self-respect – we need to find more ways to show our respect for Aboriginal cultures and people, beyond admitting the story of colonisation behind modern Australia. We need recognition of the deep wisdom traditions that knew this place for countless generations, honourable and ongoing conversations about how things work here, how things are and could be.

To help stem the tide of suicide amongst Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders, let’s start by showing respect for their traditions. Respect for the land that sustains us, combined with knowledge about working it, rather than against it; extended understanding of kinship relations, which include all members of our community as well as our relations in nature; cooperation rather than competition. But we have to do this at the personal levels, enact it as more of a mainstream story in the media, not just on NITV (Channel 34, a great resource for all Australians) but also in the more commercialised channels of TV, film and other portals of modern story telling. Better than worrying about how much of a bogan one of our sports stars is; let’s keep building and telling stories of how rich, diverse and wise the Aboriginal cultures of this land still are.

For more information:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-14/youth-suicide-at-crisis-levels-among-indigenous-population/6543060

Info plus organisations designed to help: http://www.livingisforeveryone.com.au/Indigenous.html

*bogan: for international readers, a bogan is an Aussie term for a rough character, usually tasteless:

Urban Dictionary: bogan

Generally ‘dim-witted’, bogans are well know for having poor and vulgar language and typically found in rural areas or outer, lower class, suburbs. A male bogan can often be seen wearing old attire typically a ‘wife-beater’ (singlet), Australian rules football jumper, or a flanel shirt.