What does it mean to be a responsible human being alive today? What does it mean to be in this body during this moment in time? I could have entered into conscious awareness of myself as a homosapien in a rural village 500 kilometers south of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But, I became an I, in the West Village of New York City, United States of America, some say the heart of American capitalism. I have white skin, was raised with wealth, and am thin and able-bodied, in a country that values each of these things. What does it mean to be a responsible human being?
This was not always the question I asked when thinking about the climate emergency. But, this question is at the center of the project Emergence of Heart because it orients us back into a network of relationships. Relationships to time, land, humans, and the more-than-human beings.
Emergence of Heart started out as a short fictional coming of age story based on my life as a young white nonbinary child. The film centralizes their inner journey navigating the climate crisis, white privilege, and what it means to grow into a responsible adult. The short film is designed to tell a personal vulnerable story to open up conversations with audiences about their own experience being human today. And we finally are planning on filming this summer! But, to get here, the preparation for the short film led us to create Emergence of Heart as a project. A project tasked with reflecting our collective heart by weaving together individual stories of how people are being human today.
This goal led us to create one of the first virtual global eco drag shows this past February, which spotlighted artists from Taiwan, India, South Africa, Myanmar, and Singapore. These performers came together to share the history of their country, showcase a drag performance inspired by their present, and talk with the audience about their vision of a world for all life. What emerged was stories of individuals as beacons of light living in countries still experiencing the rippling historical wounds of the British enforcing homophobic laws and exploiting their environment. The show was a reorientation to time and history, land masses on a planet, and to other humans around the world feeling deeply. And the show’s impact inspired Emergence of Heart to be the burgeoning project it is today.
For me, the climate crisis is the tip of a larger psychological and spiritual iceberg. As an academically trained biologist, my former self would be shocked by this thinking. This thinking is leading me to view storytelling as my niche in addressing the climate emergency. That would have sounded absurd. But, besides memorization, biology training was about observation, noticing patterns and changes and then theorizing about why and how. In college, I had a running list of world problems that I kept by my bed. Overtime, I started seeing patterns. It started with the food system: algal blooms, peak phosphorus, and obesity. They all seemed connected, so I started connecting dots. Eventually, my list of climate crises, toxic masculinity, and racism, to name a few, shared a commonality in disconnection and fear.
Today, I see a lot of violence. Violence against bodies that are protecting land and water, violence against bodies that are not white or cis, and violence in the form of laws around what other people say in schools and around what one is allowed to do with their body. What is the pattern underneath the violence? White supremacy and patriarchy? Beneath it all I see a desire to control and beneath that is fear. A fear of a loss of the ability to dominate. A loss of having control over others. A loss of a sense of one’s place in the world, if one’s place is no longer in the center.
For a while, I joked that the United States needed to enter into therapy. Our origin story was born of acts of violence against both other humans and the more-than-human. We do not have an integrated story of ourselves as a nation, weaving the harm and lessons learned. What is our process for collective sense-making in the chaos we see around us? Hence the analogy of therapy to serve the psychological and spiritual wounds that have us working towards our own demise. Hence my curiosity around creating environments for people to refind their relationship to time, land, and other human and more-than-human beings. Hence my focus on weaving together people’s stories to reveal our collective humanity amidst the climate emergency.
Storytelling, I see as a healing tool for collective sense-making amidst climate and societal chaos. The story of Emergence of Heart, follows an individual within the collective, a child exploring where we are and how we got here.
The act of making this film intends to embody the values and impact of the finished product. So we are reaching out to local and national partners and humans to help bring this story to life. We would love your help!
Emergence of Heart is set to film in the Tri-state and Hudson Valley area. We plan on partnering with local organizations, high schools and colleges. If interested we would love your help: in telling the behind the scenes story, gathering food and cooking community meals, building partnerships, and connecting us to other interested humans. If you or anyone you know is interested in being a part of this experience, please reach out to email@example.com.