review by Caspar Walsh
I read Animate Earth, the book, three years ago. I was impressed and inspired by its ambition and scope, particularly the opening story of how its author, Stephan Harding – a committed scientist who had spent many years gathering intricate data on the behaviour of muntjac deer – had a life changing experience in the wood that was his research laboratory.
While lying on his back, staring up through the leafy canopy, Stephan began to experience a dramatic shift in his perception. His consciousness opened into an intuitive understanding of the collective life of his woodland laboratory – not of its disparate parts, but of the wood itself as a holistic being.
This revelatory experience of the interrelatedness of every aspect of the wood underpinned Stephan’s new awareness of the global implications of his research and the impact it could have in influencing how we as humans engage with the planet. Stephan’s profound, non data based experience in the wood that day left him in no doubt that our relationship to, and understanding of, nature must be rooted both in the precise, reductionist approach of science and the intuitive, spontaneous, open-minded gathering of ‘feeling’ information. Put simply, a marriage between the numerical mind and the intuitive mind.
What struck me most about the film Animate Earth, was Stephan’s ability to convey his message through the simple magic and power of a good story well told, although his ‘story of the carbon cycle’ was pretty demanding. Stephan is a natural storyteller with an absolute conviction for his subject, backed up by a solid foundation in science, which gives his bold ideas credibility and weight.
Animate Earth offers a grand solution for a new way of being in the world based principally on building a bridge between science and intuition; putting each centre stage as a route to gaining greater understanding of the world we live in. And with this wider, more encompassing understanding of our planet we may be able to slow and possibly halt the slide into climate chaos.
Contrary to much of the present science and debate, the film makes the case that there is still time. He is infectiously optimistic for our future – but only if individually and collectively we make the choice to change, engage in a new global consciousness and act upon it. Animate Earth presents a hugely ambitious concept, one that is underpinned by science, common sense and a simplistic beauty that is, to be honest, enthralling.