On Monday, January 31st, the Columbia Maison Française and the Columbia Climate Center co-hosted the American pre-screening of “HOME”, a film directed by world-renowned photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, well known from his “Earth from Above” series. A panel discussion, moderated by science journalist and author David Berreby, followed the film. The panelists included Mr. Arthus-Bertrand, Olivier Langrand, Executive Vice President of Conservation International, Sabine Marx, Managing Director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Shama Perveen, Associate Research Scientist at the Columbia Water Center, Gavin Schmidt, climatologist and climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Maria Uriarte, Assistant Professor at Columbia’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology. Their discussion addressed topics such as film’s potential to motivate change, the role that cities play in both aggravating and ameliorating environmental degradation, and the role of corporations in sustainable development. Panelists also responded to questions posed by audience members that ranged from “Why is it so cold this winter?” to “Why did it take two years for this film to come to the US?”
As described on the website for the film, Arthus-Bertrand uses HOME to “[share] with us his sense of awe about our planet and his concern for its health”. The film presents aerial footage from over 50 countries, narrated by Glenn Close, and focuses on the story of human development. The film emphasizes the problems created by this development, but conveys an underlying message of human potential. As the director stated in the panel discussion following the film, a main message in HOME is that nobody is guilty, yet all of us are responsible: what we do next is in our hands.
While some may object to aspects of the narrated script, the striking images are the most important element of the film. Communications expert Sabine Marx proposed an interesting role for these images. People can only worry about so much, a concept known by psychologists as the finite pool of worry. Thus we may block out or forget seemingly overwhelming world issues such as climate change or poverty when confronted with more immediate problems in every day life. The remarkable images presented in HOME have the potential to ingrain themselves in people’s memories, preventing this block and allowing climate issues to remain salient.