By Findhorn resident, Geoff Dalglish; reposted from his own blog.
‘Until my ghastly tale is told, this heart within me burns,’
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Albatross is a word seared indelibly into my consciousness after two profound experiences on epic sea voyages in vast oceans decades and many thousands of miles apart. The first played out on a journey between Japan and Hawaii and was viewed through the eyes of a lovesick 17-year-old feeling all the pain of having bid farewell to a gorgeous new love he was destined never to meet again. I experienced that terrible angst of teenage love like a knife in my heart and spent long hours alone on deck, staring forlornly into the waves, until something miraculous and healing happened. An albatross appeared alongside the ship and shadowed us for days. Whenever I looked, there it was, lifting my spirits and filling me with a sense of awe and wonder.
Decades later, in December 2010, I embarked on a seagoing odyssey south from Cape Town to Antarctica aboard a scientific research ship that alternately filled me with elation at the wild beauty of the Southern Ocean, and a growing sense of foreboding that I would perish on this journey into the unknown. And then it happened again … whenever I ventured outside to view this wild world of stormy seas and ever-present icebergs, I’d see an albatross effortlessly riding the wind currents, day after day. I decided it was one of the most remarkable sights I’d ever witnessed, and the albatross was one of the most inspiring creatures I had the good fortune to share life on Planet Earth with. The more I watched it, the greater the love and admiration I felt for this wandering soul. And indeed for all life.
A single feeding flight can last days and transport the albatross thousands of miles
What a wonderful world we live in that includes a legendary seabird that can leave land as a fledgeling and not return for years, slowly growing into adulthood and living entirely off the bounty of the ocean, just as its ancestors have done forever. So it was with a sense of excitement that I recently watched the full-length film Albatross, the promotional material billing it as “a love story for our time from the heart of the Pacific.”
Artist and filmmaker Chris Jordan invites his audience to “come with on a journey through the eye of beauty … across an ocean of grief … and beyond.” It takes us to remote Midway Island in the North Pacific Ocean, more than 2,000 miles from the nearest continent. “Midway was a US naval air station and now it feels like a postwar battlefield with dead albatrosses juxtaposed against old military buildings. Now the war is against plastic and albatrosses are the casualties on the frontline,” he explains.
Against the backdrop of decaying military infrastructure, more than a million albatrosses come to Midway to nest and rear their babies. But a tragedy is playing out as the parents unwittingly feed their chicks a toxic cocktail of plastic pieces ranging from bottle tops, cigarette lighters and toys to those fish-shaped soy sauce bottles that come with takeaway sushi.
Who could not love the goofy-looking fledgelings?
Parent birds serve as an umbilical cord directly from the sea to their babies, but they have no way of understanding that these brightly coloured throwaways have no nutritional value. They are often sharp-edged and cause irreparable internal damage, also weighing the fledglings down to the point where many are doomed never to take their first life-giving flight. It is an environmental tragedy and the experience, so hauntingly and artistically portrayed in the movie, is not only about the suffering of these magnificent birds, but also about what it reflects back to us about the destructive power of our culture of mass consumption. It shines a light on humanity’s damaged relationship with the living world. Chris Jordan asks: “Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time, and allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us, and our future?”
Albatross adults mate for life and have beautifully synchronised mating rituals
We are living in a Plastic Age and his exquisitely crafted film features astonishing photography, an inspiring soundtrack and a tightrope walk between beauty and horror. It is a clarion call to action to mend our broken relationship with the Earth. “I want people to watch this film and feel sadness and rage and realise that comes from a place of love. Don’t pull the plug out of the bathtub just yet,” he suggests. “Don’t let all that raw emotion drain away. Once you feel love, you can be more courageous and make more radical choices.”
I wholeheartedly agree and remember the words of primatologist Jane Goodall: “Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference…Only if we understand will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.”
The film is helping me to change my relationship with plastic and appreciating that all the plastic ever created is still with us. It lasts forever and yet we throw much of it away after a single use. My hope is that many will see this film. Chris Jordan is offering eight years of his work as a free gift to the world. He sees it as a contribution of love, beauty and hope.
Albatross will be screened in Findhorn’s Universal Hall at 7:30pm on Friday, November 9 and at the Mountain Club of South Africa in Cape Town on Friday, January 25. Or you could watch the trailer or full-length film here.
Geoff Dalglish walks as an ambassador for the Findhorn Foundation community in Scotland and as a representative of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). Geoff is exploring ways of co-creating a world more loving, joyful and sustainable for humanity that recognises and celebrates the interconnectedness of all life.