Interview with Sven
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

    On this rainy morning I had the chance to meet with Sven for a cup of tea and a half hour chat in his kitchen.  We had not done an official interview for the blog since May of last year, so an update on A Sea Change and the work Barbara Ettinger and Sven Huseby do with Ocean Acidification was more than due.

D:    Sven, why don't you tell me what you have been up to over the past six months.

Sven:    In November of last year we were invited to participate in London at a gathering of NGOs, foundations and scientists who were looking at ways of building further collaboration between the funding community, the research community and the policy community in Europe and specially in Great Britain.  It was right at the time when their government had approved further funding for research on Ocean Acidification and there was the belief that there could be an increase in the number of monitoring stations and new ways to analyze the data coming in.  So that was a very hopeful kind of conference, very exciting.
From there we returned to the States.  Barbara had actually been exploring a next film project, which was going to be about the US military and sustainable energy systems.  We were working on that in the background, but in the meantime we had invitations in February and March to participate in a couple of three-day events, first at Oregon State University and then at the University of Washington
The first one was actually sponsored by their Philosophy Department and was around the topic of science, media and messaging.  We did a three hour seminar with people in the Communications Department and with graduate students in science.  We started the first day with a seminar in which we first talked about how you make a film of the kind that we made with A Sea Change.  Then we asked the group to break up into four groups and to pick an environmental topic that they would like to make a documentary about.  They were to create a narrative tale that would carry the message and organize it in such a way that they could make a pitch to a foundation to raise money for making of the film.  Barbara and I represented a foundation and were there to listen and then critique their presentations. In other words, we went through the motions that would not be unusual for the making and funding of an environmental film.



D:    Do you think scientists see a need to learn to communicate better, to transmit their findings and inform the public?

Sven:    There is no question that scientists feel that a huge challenge within (and I think that is why the philosophy department was pushing this) the science community is addressing the question of whether it is the responsibility of the scientists to speak out, to communicate, to educate around their findings.  There was a panel group that talked about this subject at a gathering.  Some felt very strongly that it was almost immoral not to speak out, others thought that the definition of a scientist was someone who continues to do the science, that it was for others to pick up what we are learning from science and bring it into the public realm.  The minute a scientist gets involved, objectivity, credibility, the scientist's value to the field of science becomes suspect, questionable.  There was one rather poignant moment when one of the scientists expressed the anger and frustration keeping such a position caused him, this impossibility to go out to a mountain top and scream about one's findings.
    When we went to the University of Washington most participants were already graduate students in the field of fisheries or aquatic studies or was an ocean scientist in general.  In that arena I would say that there was a stronger sense that there is a need to speak out.  But it is always dangerous, because the criticism you can receive for your actions becomes directed not just at you, but to the validity of the work you are doing, and therefore your scientific efforts.

D:    I think labs and science departments at universities should have a spokesperson, someone not directly involved in the research who works on its interpretation and on bringing it to the media and the public.

Sven:    I completely agree with you, I know Barbara would as well and our dream was to talk with graduate students who still have not decided what their path is going to be and see if there are some of them who will find that role very satisfying, young men and women that would already be grounded in the science, but intrigued into how do you parlay it into something else.  My impression in listening to people from various labs in the country is that they would all like to have a person like that.  Do they prioritize in such a way that it is at the top of their funding requests?  I don't think so.  If they readily had the money, would they do it? I think they obviously would.  Most of the labs that I am aware of today are struggling for resources: funding has decreased significantly in the last decade.  But this discussion we are talking about here is taking place and at the University of Washington I think there was a clear understanding that this communication is a skill set of its own.

D:    Ok, what came after that?
 
Sven:    Well, in March we were going to go back to working on this new film and at that point several things happened in our lives that made us slow down a bit:  I broke my arm in a sports injury and we had our dearest dearest friend and companion, our nearly 16 year old lab become very ill, so we returned to the East Coast and nursed him for the last two months of his life.  We are now taking a little time off to try to understand what do we do next.  
In the meantime I continue to work with foundations, to see if we can keep the pipeline open for funding in the Ocean Acidification sector.  I am also continuing to work with the government through a group that I am part of called Ocean Acidification Task Force.  It is a subgroup of the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory panel to the Intergovernmental Working Panel on Ocean Acidification.  A mouthful, yes, but essentially a group that makes recommendations to the government about where we need to be looking as we invest public resources over the next five to ten years in this sector.  Right now it is a little bit on hold; we have finished our first stated mission which was to create a fully dedicated report that was submitted and has been accepted and it's now undecided whether we are going to be reactivated in the next six to twelve months.  It has been intriguing to meet the people working in the policy sector in Washington DC.  I am highly impressed with their dedication, with their know-how.  They are dealing with a political situation where it is all about cutbacks, which makes this kind of work much more challenging.

D:     And A Sea Change, what lies ahead for the film?

Sven:    I would love it if we could figure out a way in which to move the film into countries where it still hasn't had much exposure, particularly countries with large coastal areas.  I think in South America, since we have a Spanish version of the film, it could be distributed further in Chile, Peru and Argentina.  We have contacts in all three of those countries that we need to work with in order to make that happen.  We have had some screenings in China and would love to have more; we also would like to get the film hooked up with some universities there to be used however they see fit, and if there was some way to be on television there that would be even more effective.  As always, our objective is to bring Ocean Acidification into the public discourse.

From my own personal point of view, though, the more I could do to mentor others doing this kind of work, to let them experience some success and enjoy the confidence that that breeds, that would be the greatest satisfaction I could see.  I do not feel any less energy, but I have less interest in the kind of travel schedule that this work involves.  I wish I could say it was based on principles that I would like to slow down a bit, but it's really more that I am just choosing to play a different role and return more to being the classroom teacher.  I am really eager to build the number of people that we can mentor.

D:    What have scientists told you about the film since it came out?

Sven:    The thing that they single out again and again is that here is a set of scientific findings that have been built into a narrative tale.  Because it is a story of legacy and a grandfather-grandson relationship that can be broadly identified with, it engages people with that material in a way that no scientific paper, report or scientist speaking on television could ever do.  They find that amusing and they express a tremendous amount of gratitude that Barbara was able to envision a way in which to do that and that we had the drive to move forward and breathe some life into it. 

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Bicycle Interview
Saturday, June 10, 2017
By Daniel de la Calle

Barbara and Sven returned from the West Coast a few days back and this past Thursday Sven and I had a chance to go on a morning ride, discuss how Liquigas was doing in the Giro de Italia and talk about the 2010 NOAA Environmental Hero Award ceremony in La Jolla, CA.
"Thanks" to some stomach problems this spring (or so he claims) Sven is looking lean and mean and was able to talk even when the road got steep.

"It was exciting to be out there," he said.  "Obviously, it is a delight when you work hard and try to pull the best team together to make a film to in the end get this kind of recognition.  We are lucky to have Barbara as a director.  She is a good storyteller so the rest of us did what we were told and tried to do it well."


From left to right, Tony Haymet, Dick Feely, Barbara Ettinger and Sven Huseby

"The evening started with a slideshow with clips from the film and Youtube pieces related to the history of the film, television shows where it had appeared and those sort of things. There was a major buffet and soon after the ceremony.
Dick Feely came down from the Seattle office of NOAA to present the award on behalf of Doctor Jane Lubchenko, the Administrative Director of NOAA. She is a woman with deep knowledge of ocean acidification as a result of her work at Oregon State University," said Sven.  
"After the award ceremony we had a screening of the full 83 minute version of the documentary for the 250 attendees and finally a q&a with Barbara and myself, Andrew Dickson, Tony Haymet and Victoria Fabry."

I did not recognize a couple of the names, so Sven, water bottle in his hand, explained: "Tony Haymet is the president of Scripps. Andrew Dickson is known as the man who came up with a standardized way of calibrating instruments to measure pH levels around the world seas, whether it is Japan, Norway, Australia or the United States. And Victoria Fabry, or Vicky Fabry as we know her, is the scientist who was originally interviewed by Elizabeth Kolbert in her seminal article for the November 2006 issue of the New Yorker titled "The Darkening Sea".  It is always a treat to catch up with Vicky."

"The best part of getting an award like this is you can leverage it into more publicity and greater milage for the film," he concluded.





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NIIJII FILMS WIN 2010 NOAA ENVIRONMENTAL HERO AWARD
Saturday, June 10, 2017
On Earth Day this week, Barbara and Sven were announced as 2010 NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Environmental Heroes for their tireless work to bring attention to ocean acidification through A Sea Change.  To see the official announcement, click here.
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SCRIPPS and A Sea Change: Science and Cinema on a Mission
Saturday, June 10, 2017
On Friday night we had a reunion in La Jolla with our colleagues from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  It was the first time we had gotten together since we stormed COP15.  After much strategizing, we have decided to have a repeat performance at COP16 in November.  We concluded that we had, in fact, made a difference, and we need to continue as an effective team on the ground.
Many blog entries and articles were written in Copenhagen on ocean acidification and A Sea Change, and here is one example (also pasted below) from a graduate student at Scripps:

A Sea Change
This film is amazing. If every parent could see this film, they would be set on fire to do something to stop ocean acidification. It follows the journey of one man, the filmmaker, Sven Huseby, who, after reading an article in the New Yorker about ocean acidification, becomes determined to save the beautiful fragile pteropods who are in the most danger of losing their shells if we continue emitting carbon dioxide and acidifying the oceans, so his grandson will grow up in a world will an ocean teeming with life.

After a screening of the film on December 10, there was a Q&A with Vicki Fabry, Andrew Dickson, Tony Haymet, and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The moderator, Brad Warren, kicked off this portion of the Q&A with an attempt to address two criticisms: Two kinds of hope being peddled at COP-15, both of which deserve to be thrown out of the window of a tall building. Geoengineering in the form of ocean fertilization. And the fact that adult lobsters grow thicker shells in a more acidic sea sometimes. You can click on the link to hear the panelists’ response: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fp-A-qCMhgY

Tamara Beitzel, Scripps graduate student
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Stirring it up on the West Coast
Saturday, June 10, 2017
In our last entry, we were touring the gold mining town of Nevada city in our new t-shirts, sporting the logo "make films, not war".  This was during the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, just east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains.  An established environmental film festival, it brings visitors from all over Northern California for a long weekend of back to back environmental film screenings.  We had two screenings with engaged and concerned audiences who were eager to learn more about ocean acidification.  In addition, we met our film making friend, Alan Dater, who was there with Taking Root, the vision of Wangari Maathai of Kenya.  Together with his wife, Lisa Merton, Alan has co-directed and produced a powerful film of what it takes to generate change in the face of fierce political opposition.  We encourage you to see it.    

Nevada City was fascinating.  It was the center of the California Gold Rush back in the 1850's.  Many of the old machines and tools were on display, and the first screening of our film was in the old foundary, that made the gold extraction possible.  Nevada City is a small town of approximate 3,000 people, but it is located in a stunning setting at the lower end of the Yuma River watershed.  We highly recommend a visit if your travels bring you anywhere near that part of the world.

Our next festival was in Sonoma.  It was also an environmental film festival.  The audiences were small (around fifty) but they were hard core.  We had an excellent Q&A and enjoyed the experience.  During the playing of the film, we had a chance to explore the main square and wandered along the perimeter, peering into shop windows with wine for sale, wine glasses for sale, napkins and plates to go with the wine for sale, cheese to put on the plates to go with the wine for sale....you get the picture.  Following the screening we had dinner with someone who works with the Center for Biological Diversity, the NGO where Miyoko Sakashita from the film works.  They are doing bold work in the field of ocean acidification.

Next stop, Palo Alto.  We'll be screening at the Classic Residence by Hyatt on February 11th.  We look forward to it!

We'd like to take a moment to congratulate our friends from The Cove on their nomination for an academy award.  It's a great film, which brings much needed attention to ocean issues.

Finally, we'd like to introduce Daniel de la Calle, who will be making blog entries in addition to our own.  Daniel hails from Spain, and has worked with A Sea Change since its inception, acting as production photographer, so expect to see some incredible images, as well as regularly updated text, going forward.

    The coming months will bring us back to Washington, DC, where we will be in a position to learn more about what leadership the capital is giving to ocean issues.  We will also be checking in with many of our scientist friends and will bring you up to date on the latest research.
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Ocean Acidification Breaks the Surface
Saturday, June 10, 2017

Today is Ocean Day at COP-15.  The day began with a bang with a major piece from the BBC quoting the UK's Environmental Minister, Hilary Benn, regarding the importance of ocean acidification.   Barbara and I attended panel presentations at the European Environmental Agency (EEA) here in Copenhagen.  Speaker after speaker spoke about the changes we are seeing in our oceans as a result of the 22 million tons of CO2 that they are absorbing per day.  Yes, 22 million tons per day.

Tonight we are looking forward to a talk at the EEA by Dr. Jane Lubchenco, current administrative head of NOAA.  She has been a leader in environmental science and marine ecology.  We are most fortunate because she knows ocean acidification.  Her research work is broadly respected and she is a former recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship


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Where will the U.S. be?
Saturday, June 10, 2017
The impression we have of COP-15 is that we are two of 50,000 people plus working steadily to focus this process towards a similar goal, lowering global CO2 concentrations.  There are several critical fault lines, but the largest is still, "Where is the US going to be by the end of next week?"
-Sven
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Day 2
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Barbara and I are here in Copenhagen at COP-15 to continue our efforts to get oceans and ocean acidification onto the global climate agenda.  We are part of the team from Scripps and the University of California.  Towards that end, I was asked to give a talk yesterday on Ocean Acidification and its Human Impacts.  Not being a scientist, I am allowed to discuss the possible human impacts from a subjective viewpoint.  Yet, speaking to a room of scientists I have to do so with information that is fully rooted in and guided by their research.  In the same way, discussions following our screenings of "A Sea Change" have to underscore the urgency of citizen action towards policy changes, but not with a tone that begins to feel apocalyptic.  That in a nutshell is the challenge of the work we find ourselves doing.  Today is Day 2 of the meetings and further reports will follow.
-Sven Huseby

From L-R: Jeffrey Short, Brad Warren, Richard Feely, Sven Huseby, Barbara Ettinger
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On the Road Again
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Sven, on the way to make some noise about ocean acidification in Copenhagen.

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Niijii Films in Copenhagen
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Barbara, Sven, Angela and Gwen have landed in Copenhagen.  We have at least 4 screenings of A Sea Change planned during the COP-15 conference, and we plan to do everything we can to put the oceans on the agenda of discussion for our nations' leaders. 
While there is little likelihood of a significant treaty being signed in Copenhagen, there are some small glimmers of hope that movement has begun.  With President Obama and the Chinese government both signaling a willingness to commit to hard CO2 reduction targets, it appears that perhaps a treaty might eventually emerge.  However, until the CO2 starts dropping, the only reduction that is occurring involves the pH level of our oceans.
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