Tuvalu’s ocean challenges come into focus
29 02 2020

“I to the world am like a drop of water

That in the ocean seeks another drop.”


So laments Antipholus of Syracuse in William Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, betraying his thoughts that he will never again reconnect with his lost mother and twin.


The allure of the seas and oceans have similarly provided the lyrical backdrop for untold stories and heartfelt expressions of loss, love and joy over the centuries. Such storytelling techniques were only enhanced with the arrival of photography and then the recorded moving image in recent decades, with beautiful, compelling marine videos aligned to everything from environmental campaigns to selling aftershave.


At NLA International we are most interested in the use of such techniques to draw attention to urgent issues within the Blue Economy, which is why we are keen to share news of a soon-to-be-released ocean-themed climate change film produced by a dedicated group of passionate students.


Tuvalu is what we like to call a large ocean nation (sometimes referred to as a Small Island Developing State or SID) in the South Pacific. This British Commonwealth country, with a population of just over 11,000 people is experiencing the impact of climate change in so many ways. Of course, issues such as sea level rises and plastic waste aren’t unique to Tuvalu but their approach to sharing their story with the world is certainly very special.


Back in February 2019 we shared an article on our website 'Tuvalu - Telling their story their way’ that described the intention to make a film about the impacts of climate change on this island nation.


Guided by a team of film-making students from Loyola University Chicago, young people of Tuvalu were empowered to tell their story using video. This is not an external perspective on the island’s story, but very much the people of Tuvalu’s perspective; that gives a depth of integrity and insight that no external film crew could ever achieve alone.


We have been very privileged to receive unedited extracts that reveal the most poignant and personal insights around the impact of sea level rises and climate change. It is obvious that the filming, which took place in Summer 2019, was a complete success. Watching these vignettes leaves one in no doubt that climate change is eroding cultures, societies and families, not just the land. You are also left charged by the will of the local community to rise to the challenges they face. “Tuvalu is my home; I will not give it up without a fight,”, as one young person memorably puts it.


It is a credit to the team of young people from Tuvalu and Loyola University that this story can be told in such an engaging and personal way.  Project leader, Professor John Goheen, Senior Professional In Residence at Loyola’s School of Communication, commented: "I am blown away, not only by the storytelling, but by the level of production value that was achieved in such a short time with a group of people who had never held a camera before.

"We worked with 16 young people ages 17 to 29. They were so into this project and worked so hard. It's obvious by the outcomes. The film is truly unique both in how it was made and how it is produced."


As we explored recently in one chapter of our book, , programmes such as Sir Richard Attenborough’s Blue Planet (BBC) have had a transformative effect on people’s understanding of the challenges facing both marine ecosystems and related ocean communities. They also have the potential to draw concerned viewers into environmental campaigning, activism and to contribute to citizen science projects related to the ocean. We hope the Tuvalu project will act as a similarly powerful call-to-action.


The final part of the project is to prepare the film for distribution, with the hope that it will reach mainstream viewing and allow the story of Tuvalu to be told the way the people of Tuvalu would want. The project team are seeking sponsorship to fund these final elements. If you would like to engage with them, learn more or explore how you could sponsor their work please contact Professor Goheen at jgoheen@luc.edu.


We are looking forward to seeing the completed film and will provide further updates on www.NLAI.blue. As Antipholus of Syracuse comments later in The Comedy of Errors:


“There’s a time for all things.”


For the young people driving this project, their time is now. And not a moment too soon. We wish them the greatest success.

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