I have been documenting aquatic ecosystems for twenty years, and I am worried to see how they change. It is true that the whole earth is changing, changes on land have been going on for thousands of years. They have become a matter of course in our lives, and we can no longer, or rather do not want to distinguish, what is still acceptable and what already threatens the preservation of individual life forms. Water has been affected by our civilization over the last decades. The consequences are drastic and dramatically fast.
One of the first photographs which I took under water twenty years ago, captures the cliff at Ras Mohammed in the Red Sea. The second photo is from the same place but at present. I have visited hundreds of dive sites and I can say responsibly that these photos are the same in terms of development of aquatic ecosystems. I can’t cope with it. Despite everything, water is one of the last parts of wildlife that is not fully under our control. Staying in it returns us our senses, which we “hypermarket” people lost a long time ago. Just show it respect and it teaches you to perceive and understand nature and animals. It is the loss of contact and the alienation of nature that are the decisive reasons why the fate of our environment is becoming increasingly indifferent to us. Nature is increasingly becoming a source of raw material for us to exploit steadily.
More than twenty-five years ago, in Rio de Janeiro, the United Nations adopted a declaration stating how our civilization should continue its progress. We called it Sustainable Development (SD) and it is based on the idea that we will protect the biodiversity of our planet in order to preserve all life forms at least as they are at present. United Europe and its Member States, which have adopted SD as their horizontal priority, have become the leader of this effort. Unfortunately, after twenty-five years, we can only say that we have failed. In fact, we have tried to implement SD through a number of regulations, with no emphasis on the most important – education and training. The idea of SD cannot be fulfilled without general support from the population. The result is that we are deluding ourselves and our negative impact on natural ecosystems is deepening. Our Earth has changed fundamentally over the quarter century since the Rio conference. A huge number of natural ecosystems have disappeared, many animal species have become extinct, and many others have become endangered. Air and water pollution are on the rise and, among other things, twelve million tonnes of plastic ends up in the world’s oceans every year. New continents of human waste are emerging which concentrate sea currents and are already bigger than Germany, France and Spain together. We continue to waste resources excessively, we recklessly devastate habitats and create a huge ecological debt, the growth of which the present generation cannot stop. This task remains on the shoulders of our children. We can only help them to prepare for it.
It is indisputable that this is the most important role of our civilization. To ensure that our future development will be sustainable. It is not about inventing machines and designing processes to help us manage waste, or clean up the air, or the oceans. The role is much harder. It requires a new generation of people to be raised. People who are much smarter than us, who will be able to control their greed, realize that quality of life is not measured by accumulated material goods, but above all by the quality of the environment. People for whom the protection of life, not just human life, will be the basis of their mentality. In order to do this, we have to overcome the biggest problem, which is the fact that very few people understand what the goal of SD is, and even less know how to live their lives to be in line with SD. SD has become more a topic of intellectual debate rather than a part and way of people’s life. It is also because its principles are explained in an incomprehensible form, without a link to real life. For humans, the global consequences of our civilization’s negative impact on all forms of life on Earth seem to be impersonal, remote, and in most cases, people do not admit that they are involved in them. This is why the UN adopted a new programme “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” in September 2015, where education is one of the key priorities.
It is water that teaches us to explore and become educated. It gives us not only a lot of breathtaking experiences and unique encounters, but also countless stories about us – people. It gives testimony about our ruthlessness, greed and egoism. My job is to capture everything with a camcorder and transcribe it into movies and articles. This is how the “Borrowed Planet” was created. It consists of sixteen 26-minute and two full-length documentaries “The Garbage Age” and “5 minutes to the End”; each of them dealing with different aspects of SD such as the quality of life, nature conservation, consumption growth, misuse of technical progress, waste management, coexistence between humans and animals, pollution, water acidification, and so on. (to get more info see http://www.pozicanaplaneta.sk/en/).
Each film is complemented by articles about the making of the film and its main theme. Everything aims to make the topic as clear as possible. “Borrowed Planet” thus combines documentary, written text and, through QR codes, information from the internet into a multimedia work and brings a clear view to sustainable development. In order to fulfil the objectives of the 2030 Agenda within the project, cooperation with Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra and pedagogues of selected Slovak elementary and secondary schools is very important. They will prepare “Expert methodological guides for pedagogical practice” to each documentary according to its topic. Teachers will formulate educational goals for each topic, design teaching methods and practices, and create five different activities that teachers can do with pupils. That can enable students to deeply penetrate the topic; they can seek analogous phenomena in their real life, understand the connection between individual behaviour and local and global impacts on natural ecosystems, and can shape their attitudes and actions in accordance with SD. I hope that “Borrowed Planet” can contribute to the active protection and creation of the environment and to the growth of universal support for sustainable development.
While testing the project in primary schools, the pupils and teachers appreciated the attractive film scenes and admired the animals who were constantly attracting their attention. The quality of documentary films is also evidenced by the fact that they have won numerous awards at international film festivals, including the Grand Prix. The first eight parts of the cycle were broadcasted by RTVS television and were repeated twice in a short time. The current situation is that we have eight films completed and at least three stories for each of them, which we rewrite into a form suitable for the first and second level of elementary schools. We are preparing “Expert methodological guides for pedagogical practice” and we are still looking for other elementary and secondary schools that will cooperate throughout Slovakia.
A series of television discussion sessions “Borrowed Planet – Our Life in Debt”, which are going to be realised on RTVS television, should also support the implementation of the project. The aim is to open the SD theme at a society level, to support the effort of gaining general support for SD, to educate teachers, to show how it is possible to realise education towards SD in an understandable and engaging way, and to raise the interest of pupils and students in SD themes and its individual topics.
“Borrowed Planet” is a unique, authoritarian, Slovak project that has the ambition to contribute to the strengthening of environmental sensitivity and the search for a way of life that is in line with sustainable development. I hope that it will become a small contribution of our country to a pan-European and global effort in the field of SD. We must realize that we repeat the same mistakes that many civilizations had made before. But contemporary human civilization is no longer just a local dominion. As a result of globalization, it has dominated the entire planet and its demise can have a disastrous impact on the existence of humanity. We have to prepare our children for that. Not to change the world, but first and foremost to change ourselves.