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OU/BBC Creative Climate short film competition 2011: Food for thought

Updated Monday, 7th November 2011

Dr Joe Smith introduces this short, engaging animation by Gervais Merryweather, a student at the National Film and Television School. This simple animation unravels the relationship between food, trade and environment in the peel of an apple.

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Appetite for change

After watching the animation, and reading Dr Joe Smith's introduction, let us know what you think about the issues raised by this short film. Add your comments at the end of the article.




OU/BBC Creative Climate Short Film Competition 2011:

Food for Thought by Gervais Merryweather (finalist)



To you and me, this is an apple, but to micro-organisms living on it, the apple is home.

Our home is earth.

The difference between mankind and micro-organisms is that we can control our environment.  We should take care of our home so that it can take care of us.

Let me ask you, when you grabbed that quick lunch today did you look at the back of the packaging and see where the ingredients came from?  Of course you didn’t, and why would you?  All you know is that this food is going to keep you moving.  The fact that the meat in your sandwich came from Argentina and that delicious apple you ate afterwards came from New Zealand wouldn’t have made a difference because it’s just food.

In 2011 the New Zealand Gala apple was a more popular choice than the home-grown Cox apple.  The journey of your lunchtime apple required a hand to pick it, a basket to drop it, a crate to carry it, a plant to label it, a wagon to load it, a boat to ship it, a lorry to collect it, a warehouse to pack it, a supermarket to sell it… and your hand to pick it.

If we think twice before we eat, we could reduce mankind’s energy consumption.

So what did you do with your rubbish?  Simple.  You threw it in the bin.  But did you realise when you threw away that plastic bottle that it would take more than a lifetime to degrade?  What happens when we run out of space?

(sound of munching on apple)


By Gervais Merryweather
Sound by Louis Morand
Voice: Chloe Lambourne
With thanks to:
Olivia Adams
Vicente Villaescusa
Jack Tilley
Jonathan Topf
David Woodman

The Open University
Free open learning openedu/youtube


Food for Thought

Gervais Merryweather, National Film and Television School

All of the complex threads of the relationships between food, trade and environment are told through an examination of the life of an apple. The animation engages heart and mind to encourage viewers to be more mindful as they shop. Gervais Merryweather explains how he arrived at his simple and striking approach here:

The idea for this film came about when I thought of the earth as an apple and of showing humankind's effects on it as a kind of mould. As Earth is a living thing, I thought it a pretty cool idea to use another living thing to portray it.

The challenge with using something organic is that its effects would be unpredictable, though a truly strong visual. The route I took was food and in the film, it describes the journey of a standard work lunch.

The main problem with consumption is that people are simply unaware of where things come from and where things go after they eat and so by combining some striking visuals and telling them a few facts, there is a chance people will take notice.

This, as well as the visuals, tries to make people aware and to just think about the decisions they make with something as simple as food.

They will then, hopefully, be able to apply this logic to many other things they do day to day.<br>

The piece reminds me of a piece in an essay by the novelist Ian McEwan about humanity and climate change where he suggests that: ‘(t)he sheer pressure of our numbers, the abundance of our inventions, the blind forces of our desires and needs, appear unstoppable and are generating a heat, the hot breath of our civilisation, whose effects we comprehend only hazily. How can we ever begin to restrain ourselves? We appear, at this distance, like a successful lichen, a ravaging bloom of algae, a mould enveloping a fruit.’

Screenshot from animation Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: The Open University

One answer to McEwan’s question is that talented creative people can throw themselves into the task of making consequences of everyday decisions tangible. Gervais brought together strands of the ‘economy’, ‘ecology’ and ‘design’ briefs in his animation. But researchers are increasingly revealing the hidden social and environmental harm in everyday things. Designers are increasingly pointing to ways in which this harm can be dramatically reduced but their work is still at the margins. What can be done to bring that thinking further into the mainstream? This piece focuses our attention on a familiar object and draws us into a concisely told story about impacts and choices. But this is more than factual content: the words and images promise to reach people at an emotional level. Attending to both head and heart seems central to the search for ways to ‘restrain’ ourselves.





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