Month: August 2012

Avatar: The Last Airbender Wordle 1

Avatar: The Last Airbender – World and Mythology

Just to make it clear, this will not be about James Cameron’s Avatar. Nor is it about The Last Airbender, the terrible live-action adaptation by M. Night Shyamalan. Instead, the next few entries will be devoted to the popular animated television series titled Avatar: The Last Airbender. I’ll simply refer to the show as Avatar in this and other subsequent posts. The series was first brought to my attention by a good friend of mine; I initially paid little heed to his initial sales pitch of “it’s really good!” because we generally have very different tastes. But on one Sunday afternoon, I happened upon an episode (now known to me as the excellent Bitter Work) and was caught off-guard by the show’s blend of Eastern influences, subtle characterizations, sharp dialogue, slapstick humour, layered mythology, and most important of all, excellent storytelling. Intrigued, I decided to catch up on the series from the beginning. It has since grown to become one of my favourite television shows, animated or otherwise, of all time. Like many contemporary works …

Isaac’s Hummingbird, by artistatexit0

Isaac’s Hummingbird (Archilochus isaaci), by artistatexit0 I am always grateful when someone finds something of value from my essays, but I never expect anyone to be inspired enough by my words to create something. So it came as a delightful surprise to read about the discovery of a rare species of hummingbird from one of my favourite blogs. I’ve featured artistatexit0’s work on Ekostories before – he has a talent for creating whimsical stories and sculptures out of natural and man-made artifacts that charm and educate. This latest post is no different, so please check it out.

Flight of the Hummingbird

Action, Responsibility, Empathy: Flight of the Hummingbird

I was introduced to Flight of the Hummingbird during the first residency of my Master’s program in Environmental Education and Communication. A parable inspired by the Quechan people of Ecuador, the thin tome serves as a powerful and moving call for environmental action. Illustrated with Michael Nicoll Yahngulanaas’ distinctive Haida manga artwork, Flight of the Hummingbird resonated with many of my fellow colleagues. By the end of the residency, our class had adopted the hummingbird as our unofficial mascot. The ideas found within Hummingbird have stayed with me ever since, continually shaping my thoughts on the nature and efficacy of environmental action. The story begins with the Great Forest catching on fire, and the animals within it fleeing for their lives. All save one. Dukdukdiya, the tiny hummingbird, would not abandon the forest. She flies to the stream, picks up a single drop of water, and drops it on the raging fire. Again and again she continues her efforts against the inferno at great personal risk. The other animals watch on the outskirts, warning Dukdukdiya …

The Sagan Series, by Reid Gower

The Sagan Series: Redefining the Frontier While researching for my recent entry on Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, I came across this Vancouver TEDx conference talk presented last November. Reid Gower, one of the millions inspired by the late scientist’s groundbreaking series Cosmos in the 80’s, recognized the potential of Sagan’s storytelling ability to resonate with a new generation. In the Sagan Series, he extracted short powerful narratives from the audiobook version of Pale Blue Dot and combined them with modern imagery and music. The result is a series of videos that are deeply inspirational and soul-stirring. They embody Sagan’s earnest desire for humanity to understand the fragility and appreciate the wonder of “this mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam”, the pale blue dot we all call home. The following chapter in the series, End of an Era: The Final Shuttle Launch, is my favourite: The rest of the chapters can be viewed HERE at the Sagan Series.

Earthrise from the Moon

Here, Home, Us: Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot

As someone fascinated by worlds real or fictional, I was ecstatic to hear about the landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. News of the successful touchdown represents a great triumph for the downsized agency and helped to rekindle my own interest in looking to the heavens. I sometimes have trouble communicating my passion of the cosmos to others. People occasionally ask: Why is space exploration important? As an environmentalist, shouldn’t you deal with all the problems we have here on Earth before worrying about the stars? What good is it all? Fortunately, there are other much more capable and articulate communicators out there to address these legitimate questions – People like Carl Sagan. One of the world’s most well-known astronomer, astrophysicist, and science popularizer, Sagan’s ability to captivate millions with his Pulitzer-winning Cosmos and the subsequent TV series of the same name is no small feat. It takes an extraordinary storyteller to distill esoteric knowledge down to digestible form and transform it into meaningful and inspiring messages for people of different ages and backgrounds. …

The Age of Solastalgia

Glenn Albrecht, creator of the term solastalgia that I discussed in last week’s entry of Jeannie Baker’s work, speaks about the concept in further detail in a recent piece: The Age of Solastalgia On the origins of the term: Solastalgia has its origins in the concepts of “solace” and “desolation”. Solace has meanings connected to the alleviation of distress or to the provision of comfort or consolation in the face of distressing events. Desolation has meanings connected to abandonment and loneliness. The suffix -algia has connotations of pain or suffering. Hence, solastalgia is a form of “homesickness” like that experienced with traditionally defined nostalgia, except that the victim has not left their home or home environment. Solastalgia, simply put, is “the homesickness you have when you are still at home’”. The causes of solastalgia: The challenge of recognising and responding to the experience of solastalgia is greater than ever. Unfortunately, small scale, local damage is still happening to loved home environments as globalisation homogenises urban and rural landscapes. Regional solastalgia is produced under the impact …

Belonging and Window Wordle

Picture Poems: Window and Belonging

As I noted in The Changing Countryside, art can be a powerful platform for conveying environmental messages and raising ecological literacy. Most of us have been touched by a particularly poignant painting, a soulful song, an intricate sculpture. In instances where the written word seems insufficient to describe the essence of an idea or a concept, art can bypass our rational centers to evoke resonance and convey meaning. Instead of thinking, we first feel it deep in our core, in our soul. I felt the message when I first flipped through Belonging, a wordless picture book by Jeannie Baker. An artist and an author, Baker specializes in the creation of intricate shallow-relief multimedia collages. Primarily used as illustrations in her books, the collages have also been part of public art collections displayed in London, New York, and Australia. Each wordless double-page spread in Belonging is an astonishing depiction of a setting through time; each panel is packed with details and textures rich and subtle, providing a visual feast for the eyes and an experience for …