Synopsis of Science Fiction Movie “Day After Tomorrow”: Environmental Issues raised have relevance while conducting cruises from Toronto Harbors

There has been a spurt of science fiction movies in Hollywood since 1990s. At a time when concept of artificial intelligence and robots are no longer a dream, it is only human nature to explore what lies ahead. A close look from the last two decades of the twentieth century reveals that human society has become more and more robotic. Advanced technologies in the form of computer and internet have opened newer possibilities to connect and interpret. At the same time, there is an increasing threat from climate change. Increased carbon dioxide emission due to industrialization and technological progress has made global warming a real threat. Just like the 1950s and 1960s when dangers from nuclear war and fascination with UFOs (Unidentified Flying Object) led many science fiction movies produced on the theme (such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ in 1968), so is the case in the last decade or so with global warming. Scientists, writers, and movie directors have all shown considerable interest in exploring the aftermath of the event of global warming. ‘Day After Tomorrow’ by Roland Emmerich is one such movie, which according to Lichtenfeld, takes us from the ‘Cold War’ to a ‘War on Cold.’ (Wildmoon; Leiserowitz, 23)

The blog discusses the different aspects of this science fiction movie with a note of impending warning to the society. Before moving into details and analysis of the movie, it would be beneficial if a brief introduction of the people associated with this film is given in a tabular form.

Facts of the Movie
Date of Release May 28, 2004
Director Roland Emmerich
Cinematographer Ueli Steiger
Writing Credits Roland Emmerich (story)Roland  Emmerich and Jeffrey Nachmanoff (Screenplay)
Supervising Art Director Claude Pare
Producers Roland Emmerich
Co-Producer Thomas M. Hammel
Associate Producer Lawrence Inglee
Executive Producer Kelly Van Horn
Cast Main Characters
Dennis Quaid  As Jack Hall
Jake Gyllenhaal As Sam Hall
Emmy Rossum As Laura Chapman
Dash Mihok As Jason Evans

(IMBD 2011)

The movie shows the devastating consequence of climate change that may appear to many as just a fantasy. In the movie, there are scenes of abrupt breakdown of the Greenland ice sheet, producing a 1000-feet- high tsunami smashing into New York. The movie was one of the most successful box office hit and did generate another wave of discussion over the issue of climate change.

The movie narrates the tale of Jack Hall (climatologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) as he survives the breakdown of a colossal ice shelf flouting off Antarctica and returns to his work with a warning about the chances of a sudden and sharp climate change because of global warming. Few weeks after Dr. Hall has submitted his theory, scientists at North Atlantic thermohaline circulation system find that the system is briskly closing down. Thermohaline Circulation (THC) denotes part of the extensive ocean circulation that is driven by density gradients generated by surface temperature and freshwater fluidity. There are some conjectures that global warming might, by way of a slowdown or shutdown, activate localized freezing in the North Atlantic and lead to cooler temperature in that region, particularly affecting regions that are warmed by North Altantic drift (Ireland, Britain and Nordic countries in particular). After analyzing trends of the climate of the geologic past through his paleoclimatic computer model, Hall predicts that the ‘world is on the verge of a major climate shift’. Initially, Dr. Hall predicts that melting polar ice caps will lead to a shutdown and drastically cool the climate in 100 years or so. He tries to warn the American vice president but is ignored. Perhaps, forecasted timeline was too long for the U.S. President Blake (performed by Perry King) and his corporate-friendly vice president (performed by Dick Cheney look-alike Kenneth Welsh) to take any action.

In the meantime, extreme weather events start to happen throughout the world, including snow storms in New Delhi, grapefruit-sized hail falling in Tokyo, hurricanes obliterating the town center of Los Angeles, and dense ice covering in Scotland. Using his computer model, Hall predicts three mammoth cyclones will develop around Northern Hemisphere, which would rapidly tug sub-zero air from the upper troposphere and precipitously ice-bound everything that comes in between. This would lead to a new ice age. Dr. Hall is called to brief US president about what can be done to address this mounting serious threat. Hall marks an east-west line through the center of the US. He advises that everyone should be shifted to Mexico. This happens after US president clears Mexico of all its public debts against US. In the meantime, Hall’s 17-year-old son (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal), who is in Manhattan for a scholarly pursuit, escapes a tidal wave. He along with his friends takes refuge in the New York Public Library. Here the movie depicts how people are burning books to warm them as the ice age has begun. The choice of burning books by Director is important as it denotes reckless use of natural products by human beings could possibly lead to such natural calamity. Dr. Hall takes on the rescue mission with two pals in a van.. And as Hall moves fast to save, his wife, Dr. Lucy (performed by Sela Ward), is engaged in heroism, rescuing patients in a deserted D.C. hospital. The end of the movie covers Dr. Hall defying cold Antarctic climate in order to reach New York to save his son, signifying victory of human will over all odds.

According to Ebert, ‘special effects’ have an ‘awesome scale’ such that movie ‘works’ in spite of its ‘cornball plotting.’ For instance, sequence of events showing picturesquely presidential plane facing serious threat from the ice as it flies amidst snowstorm. However, Ebert doubts whether ‘cataclysm’ (if it comes because of global warming) would come like this. Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2006, therefore, calls the movie ‘silly.’ (Leiserowitz, 2004, 22-24; Ebert, 155, 2005)

Lichtenfeld in his book ‘Action speaks louder: violence, spectacle, and the American action movie’ opines that Director Emmerich is perhaps ‘blasting’ White House. Emmerich is a known environmentalist and Green Party activist who is frustrated with corporate interest taking over environmental issues under President George W. Bush Jr. rule. The movie under discussion is a liberal category film that taunts Bush regime for its indifference over climate change. According to McMillan, the consequence of US’s massive energy consumption is melting the Arctic ice-cap that could destabilize the global climate. The movie focuses on the alleged aggressive US government’s energy policy that ignores warnings from ‘National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’ about global warming (Lichtenfeld, 230; McMillan, 425).

Chicago Tribune calls Director Emmerich both ‘hero and villain,’ because of executing with ‘enormous visual panache and rich imagination – after providing himself with scripts and characters so thin’. Beyond their roles, Quaid, Gyllenhaal, and Rossum are no less appreciable indeed. Chicago Tribune, instead of blaming actors questions why Director Emmerich does not hire ‘co-writers’ as ‘imaginative’ as his ‘visual technicians.’ (Wilmington)

According to an article in Geology Today, more often than not ‘rational campaigners’ and ‘environmentalists’ appreciated this movie as they felt it on their own side while realizing the dangers of global warming. Like the movie The China Syndrome (1979) and following real accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, there generated serious debate in U.S. over the issue of nuclear plant safety worldwide (Leiserowitz, 24; Geology Today, 50).

At present time, there are conflicting views between scientists, politicians, and general public over the seriousness of the issue of climate change and how to address it. As a consequence, even before the movie Day After Tomorrow made its debut on May 28, 2004, it generated an intensive media discussion. Director Roland Emmerich presents a possibility of swift and lethal could-be effect of gradual climate change for which the movie did face some criticism. However, the movie does meet the qualities of a good science fiction. It manages to take the audience to a different time and world; one needs to give credit to the director’s imagination in portraying the events unfolding through the scenes of the film in such a manner while depicting the impact of global warming.

Discussing above movie by someone who operates Toronto boat tours may appear irrelevant at first sight. However, awareness towards natural environment would also affect our business of organizing cruises from Toronto harbor in indirect ways. Sightseeing in Toronto through our cruises would be much better in qualitative terms if water bodies through which we run are fresh and do not suffer threats that could be the result of artificial human action not good for the ecological interest.

References

  1. Leiserowitz, Anthony A. “Before and After The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. Study of Climate Change Risk Perception.” Environment. 46.9 (Nov. 2004): 22-37.
  2. Lichtenfeld, Eric. Action speaks louder: violence, spectacle, and the American action movie. Wesleyan University Press, 2007.
  3. IMBD (2011) The Day After Tomorrow (2004). June 21, 2011 from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319262/.
  4. Beware of false prophets – The Day After Tomorrow, Geology Today 21.2 (March/April 2005): 51-52
  5. Ebert, Roger (2006). Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2006. Andrews McMeel Publishing.
  6. Mc Millan, Barry. “24 Frames”, The Furrow 55.7/8, (July-August 2004) 425-427.
  7. Wildmoon, K.C. Space sleepovers more science fiction than fact. CNN, 30 April. 2001, June 21, 2011 from http://edition.cnn.com/2001/TECH/space/04/30/russia.spacetourists/.
  8. Wilmington, Michael. Review for ‘The Day After Tomorrow.’ Chicago Tribune, 6 June 2007. June 21, 2011 from:  http://events.austin360.com/reviews/show/7753-review-the-day-after-tomorrow
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Ecotourism: A great way to involve local community while raising awareness towards natural environment

Tourism is directly responsible for 5 per cent of the world’s GDP, 6 per cent of total exports, and employing one out of every 12 people in advanced and emerging economies alike. According to World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international tourist arrivals are expected to reach 1 billion in 2012.

Ecotourism though not a new nature-based experience for tourists has caught attention in the last two decades or so in terms of specific definition and promotion. Modern ecotourism is believed to have started in the 1980s with flourishing tourism sector in countries like Ecuador, Nepal, Madagascar, and Costa Rica.

Ecotourism is basically a low impact nature tourism which aims at maintaining the species and habitat of the location (Fennell, 2003, p.20). The aim of ecotourism includes visiting some undisturbed and uncontaminated natural area, with some specific objectives of studying and observing the natural habitats.  Though there is disagreement on who can be precisely called ecotourists, it is generally accepted that to qualify for an ecotourism, the trip should not degrade but benefit natural environment and local people. Weaver (2001) identifies its scope:

“Ecotourism can either be based on the natural environment, or be focused on some specific component of that natural environment.”

It is estimated that ecotourism accounts for around twenty percent of all the tourism activities throughout the globe (Diamantis, 2004, p.3).

While the goals of mass-tourism and ecotourism differ to a great extent, we believe that both are complementary. After all, it is the duty of all responsible citizens to strive for making our environment free of pollution while working for economic development. As someone in the business of operating a small company from Toronto Harbour providing public with private and corporate charters, we believe ecotourism would make new-age Canadians more discreet in appreciating pleasure of sightseeing in Toronto while enjoying our toronto boat tours! After all, as Wearing and Neil (1999) observes, ecotourism should leave the ecotourist with a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a perception that environmental conservation and the principles of sustainability are worthwhile. This awareness should not be limited to tourists but spread across the community.  Don’t we need cleaner toronto harbours with  more responsible behaviour by participants on our toronto cruise?

Ecotourism has become an ideal, a benchmark for tourism that is particularly sensitive to the ecological needs of the day. However, while conceptually sound, the practical realities are such that the term ecotourism is subjected to misinterpretation. The confusion starts right from defining it.  Though the term ecotourism has been in popular use for more than 20 years now, it has eluded a firm definition because it is a complex notion which seeks to define an activity, set forth a philosophy, and espouse a model of development.  It is not only the governments that have tried to define ecotourism but also academics, commercial tour operators, conservation organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). They perhaps tend to define things in ways that are suitable for themselves, hence the variety of definitions.

The success of any ecotourism project can be measured on two independent parameters: one is the qualitative impact that it has on the tourists and community at large, and other, how the place of visit is affected by inflow of tourists. Measurement of qualitative impact is subjective and involves individual experience of tourists.  Ecotourism is expected to generate awareness towards natural environment.  As Wearing and Neil (1999) observe, it should leave the ecotourist with a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a perception that environmental conservation and the principles of sustainability are worthwhile.  This awareness should not be limited to tourists but spread across the community.

On local or regional level, there are many examples where tourists have unique experience of wild life and nature.  For instance, Rutland Water has become one of the most important bird-watching sites in the British Isles. Originally developed as a water supply reservoir, the site now supports significant populations of birds.  More than 200 species of birds have been recorded.

Dryandra is one of the best sites in Western Australia to view rare mammals, and this, in combination with extensive landscape, results in a visit of around 30,000 people a year.  Such projects not only help maintain endangered species but also give tourists a nature-based experience.

In addition to be environmentally sustainable, it is important that the use of natural areas for ecotourism be also socially and economically sustainable. To bring in local community involvement, there must be a high degree of public education: the government and other management agencies should be transparent and open. Local inhabitants can be participated through positions such as volunteer guides and park wardens in which  community members can apply their local expertise and knowledge (Wearing and Neil 1999).

There are many interesting ecotourism projects that has benefited local communities, maintaining and even enhancing natural flora and fauna. In Poland, ECEAT-Poland’s Ecotourism at Organic Farms-Vacations with an Eco farmer project helps local Polish farmers host foreign tourists and Poles visit farms in other countries  (World Ecotourism News, 2009). Thailand benefited from well-marketed, mass-tourism for its economic growth, but this resulted in large-scale interference with its local ecology and Thai culture.  It thus started to focus on sustainability and in 1997 set up National Ecotourism Councils to oversee the development of National Ecotourism Policy and Action Plan.

It is, however, not realistic to believe that ecotourism can replace mass tourism.  Ecotourism is run on different model, such as low volume, high impact.  The idea is to keep the number of visitors low so as to avoid environmental degradation that is the result of large number of visits by tourists.  It is also known that in such nature-based tourist spots, tourist satisfaction is inversely related to the intensity of visitors, and well-known ecotourism destinations such as Galapagos Islands face repercussion due to over visitation. Also, majority of ecotourism projects are not in a position to make big financial profits as they do not provide adequate means for tourists to spend money (Boo in Whelan, 1991, p.188). Thus it is conjectured by Ecotourism Society that “ecotourism will never generate as much revenue as ‘mass-tourism'” (Cited in Epler Wood, in Whelan, 1991, p.202). This has been empirically observed in Costa Rica, where ecotourism represents the principal element of its tourist industry.  In response to large scale deforestation in the 1940s, the Costa Rican government opted for a new strategy of development through ecotourism which would generate revenues and at the same time conserve national resources  It has played an important role in the national strategy of sustainable development and a successful role model for implementation of ecotourism (Ward, 1997). Still, it is feared that parks in Costa Rica are not economically sustainable.  While the parks clearly generate sufficient revenues, authorities are finding it challenging to raise spending by ecotourists (Ward, 1997).

Often, the difference between ecotourism and other tourism is fuzzy. This is dangerous as ecotourism involves rare and pristine landscapes, and being labeled as ‘eco-friendly’ presents a big business opportunity. Ecotourism policy on national level depends on government’s priorities, which could be conservation, poverty alleviation, or generating foreign exchange. Government policies often tilt on profits while compromising on sustainable development, which is its core. The lure to attract foreign tourists, earn foreign exchange, and be a part of thriving global tourism business often takes precedence over eco-friendly objectives. The tag of being eco-friendly is further exploited by other stakeholders such as tour operators, hotels, and anyone willing to make a quick gain out of the tourism business.

References

1.  Boo, E. (1991). Making Ecotourism Sustainable. In T. Whelan (ed.) Nature Tourism. Island Press, Washington, DC., pp. 187-199.

2.  Diamantis, D. (2004). Ecotourism Management: An Overview. In D. Diamantis (Ed.), Ecotourism – Management and Assessment, London: Thomson., pp. 3-26.

3.  Fennell, D. (2003). Ecotourism (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

4.  Mckercher, B. (2001). The Business of Ecotourism. The Encyclopedia of Ecotourism. CABI Publishing: New York.

5.  UNWTO (2012). International tourism to reach one billion in 2012. [Press release]. Retrieved from http://media.unwto.org/en/press-release/2012-01-16/international-tourism-reach-one-billion-2012

6.  Ward, N.K. (1997). Ecotourism: Reality or Rhetoric. Retrieved from http://www.planeta.com/ecotravel/mexico/yucatan/ward/ward2.html

7.  Wearing, S. and Neil, J. (1999). Ecotourism: Impacts, Potential and Possibilities.: Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.

8. Weaver, D. (2001). Ecotourism. Milton, Queensland: John Wiley & Sons, USA.

9.  Wood, M.E. (2002). Ecotourism: Principles, Practices and Policies for Sustainability. United Nations Environment Programme. Division of Technology, Industry and Economics. pp 1-32.

10.  World Ecotourism News (2009). Retrieved from http://www.ecoclub.com/news/33/world.html

For Sustainable Development in Canada, Business as usual no Longer an Option

NOTE: RESEARCH FOR THIS BLOG IS FUNDED BY TORONTO LUXURY CHARTER, ONGOING, AND AWAITS FINAL APPROVAL

Today, there is rising awareness over pollution worldwide because of fast industrialization of developing countries like China and India. Sustainable policies need to be put into operation rising above politics. In this blog, we would look at the notion of sustainable agriculture, food production, and urban living from a number of angles, including benefits, challenges, and opportunities. Indirectly, such sustainable practices would improve quality of life of all Canadians, be it rural or urban. Whether it is agricultural land or water bodies, we need to strive for making our environment free of pollution. As someone in the business of running a small company from Toronto Harbor providing public with private and corporate charters, we believe it would improve sightseeing in Toronto and bring more tourists to our Toronto boat tours in amazing ways!

Agriculture is practiced by human beings ever since the dawn of human civilization. In the present time, agriculture is carried out either under demand-based agriculture model or resource-based agriculture model. Demand-based agriculture is organized taking into consideration demand of agricultural goods by consumers and industries. Resource-based agriculture is conceptualized on the theme of producing goods from the earth in a manner that does not harm ecosystem in the process. Extra care is taken to deploy only those ingredients (fertilizers, seeds etc.) that are not harmful to the ecosystem in the long-run.

Green revolution that began in the 1960s has added farm productivity in a big way, but to the detriment of sustainable development. In Canada, agricultural output has risen by 175 per cent since 1941. According to a report by IAASTD ‘Agriculture at a Crossroads,’ there has been compromise on social and environmental consequences while achieving significant rise in agricultural output. Less than 10 per cent of the land in Canada has capacity to sustain agricultural food production! The IAASTD report warns:

 “Business as usual is no longer an option.”

Many of the urban problems such as high pollution, overpopulation can be addressed if there is healthy development of communities in the rural areas. According to government agency Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada focused on developing sustainable agricultural strategies by ensuring active participation by farming community:

Sustainable development means producing, processing, and distributing agricultural products in a manner that supports or enhances the high quality of life we enjoy in Canada, both today and into the future.”

According to IAASTD:

“We need a shared approach to sustainability with local and cross-national collaboration.”

It is felt that for socially and economically sustainable development, both formal science and traditional knowledge and culture need to be taken into account. The process would indirectly also lead to sustainable urban development: greater opportunities attract rural youth into cities; if residents in rural areas are provided with profitable employments, pressure of population in urban areas would be reduced.

According to a study ‘Toward Sustainable Communities,’ sustainable agriculture model would require approaching ecosystem from human settlement point of view rather than the 20th century way of using them to meet immediate short-term needs.

One of the main challenges in putting into practice sustainable approaches to agriculture is maintaining healthy food production and improving social welfare of participants while enhancing multiplier effects of agriculture. Sustainable farming is also more prone to attacks from pests. According to IAASTD, connecting agricultural outputs from marginalized, rain-fed lands to the global market would require serious adjustments in distribution mechanism. Outcome of such endeavors would also depend on how well participants are absorbed into other economic activities during off-farm period. The report identifies ‘large and middle-sized farmers’ as ‘important’ and ‘high pay-off targets.’ Uncertainties about future market prices of agricultural goods and economics of fossil-based energy fuel may require significant adjustments in the process. Emergence of new substitutes for natural resources may also impact a program in a whole new way.

Community-based sustainable initiatives can open new avenues of opportunities for women. Women’s participation in agricultural production ranges from 20 to 70 per cent globally: their involvement is rising in many developing countries, especially because of popularization of export-oriented farming. Although such developments have benefited women, still significant proportion of rural women faces deteriorating health and work environment because of a number of factors like low education, etc. A policy that takes into account interest of women side-by-side with sustainable agriculture would be very effective, as it could address twin objectives of empowerment of women and sustainable agriculture.

In Canada, agriculture is a $50-billion-a-year industry, employing directly and indirectly 14 per cent of workforce and contributing about one -third of the nation’s trade surplus. According to IAASTD, commitment of government in implementing any project is of vital significance. In North America particularly, implementation of sustainable development would require mobilizing citizens and states. If sustainable community- based initiatives are applied with active involvement of stakeholders, misuse of natural resource can be reversed, leading to judicious use of water bodies, land, and ecosystem as a whole. Any long-term strategy for sustainable development would require linking the ‘three pillars’ of ‘sustainable development,’ namely ‘economic, environmental, and social.’

References

1.  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (2006). Making Progress Together. Publishing and Depository Services, Public Works and Government Services, Canada.

2.  IAASTD (2009). Agriculture at a Crossroads. International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development. Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report, Canada.

3. Toward Sustainable Communities : Resources for Citizens and Their Governments (2005). New Society Publishers, Canada.

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