Extra Virgin August
Extra Virgin
Extra Virgin August


Survival on Planet Celluloid

Celluloid has changed the world of storytelling. And it’s shifted the way audiences engage with the storyteller. Leonie Joubert sulks a bit as she considers a world where the entertainer is king and wonders how Brangelina’s twins might help to save the earth.

Urgh. I’m stuck. Writer’s block. It started when I read today’s headlines on one of my favourite news websites (a respected one, at that). Top of the “don’t miss” ticker scrolling across the page? Angelina Jolie gives birth to twins. And Madonna’s failing marriage to Guy Ritchie is held together tentatively by the Kabbalah.

How can your every-day environmental story compete in a world fixated with celebrity? And frankly, celluloid is partly to blame. The advent of “moving pictures”, as Terry Pratchett calls them, has spawned a cult of the celebrity. It has transformed movie stars into the new royalty and our fascination with them has birthed the less than savoury flash of the paparazzi photographer.

Something else I learned about celluloid, recently, is that your burns more calories listening to the radio than you do watching television. Basically, your brain – which gobbles up about 20 percent of your daily calorie intake – has to work a bit harder if it must create its own visual world from a string of suggestive words, than if images are handed to you on the platter that is television or film.

Media critics are bemoaning the dumbing down of society through modern media technologies. Audiences now want to be entertained before they want to be informed, and they often won’t take the latter unless it’s dressed up in the former. The tabloidisation of news, dropping literacy levels as people turn to visual media over the written word, YouTube… and before you know it, movie stars constitute front page news, around the world, breaking news.

So, in the midst of feeling impotent on the environmental beat, I decided to find some good news stories. After all, the feel-good factor is often what makes visual media so entertaining.

Good News 1: your sunny window panes could turn you into a domestic electricity generator. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has devised an organic dye mix which is painted onto glass. It allows visible light to pass through, but traps the sun’s energy and diverts it to photovoltaic cells around the edge of the panel. It’s so simple that MIT expects the tech to be commercially available within three short years. Viva our freedom from Eskom!

Good News 2: with the reams of sickening photos of turtles, seals and sea birds killed by ingesting the floating remains of our plastic waste, the re-emergence of bioplastics is wonderful news. Bioplastics – made of organic fibres and starch – decompose naturally within a matter of months. So far, they’re not as rugged as oil-based plastics, and a bit more expensive to produce, but it may be a good start, particularly since traditional plastics take up a quarter of landfill space and can take thousands of years to break down.

Good News 3: Local science communicator Ginny Stone launched the first in a series of books aimed at telling kids (5 to 15 year olds) how to begin tackling climate change now (even if their parents aren’t interested). Stone, author of Sibo makes a difference (Let’s Look Publishers), says that there are plenty of things that kids can do to help fix the mess us “careless animals” have made.

“Parents have just handed the problem on to the next generation. We won’t see most of the damage – our children and grandchildren will.”

Hopefully a few things which even Brangelina’s famous-before-they-were-born twins can spend their vast wealth on one day.



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