The Other CO2 Problem

Original format: DV 50 (4.3)
Year of release: 2009
Running time: 7 minutes 30 seconds
Credits: a collaboration between Stuart Moore and Kayla Parker, and children at Ridgeway School, Plymouth; Dr Carol Turley and Helen Findlay, Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML)
Production: Sundog Media
Screening format: DVD distribution
Commissioned by EPOCA (European Project on Ocean Acidification); with support from University College Plymouth St Mark and St John, and National Marine Aquarium
Distribution and sales: Dr Carol Turley or Kelvin Boot PML

Clay animation warning of the dangers of increasing ocean acidification. Winner of the 2009 Bill Bryson Award for Science Communication awarded by the Royal Society of Chemistry

Production notes
Dr Carol Turley of Plymouth Marine Laboratory has been investigating the issue of ocean acidification, ‘the other C02 problem’, for many years and is a world expert on the subject. Our oceans are now being swamped by growing amounts of carbon dioxide, which is absorbed by the sea, producing carbonic acid. The increasing acidity dissolves calcium carbonate, which is used by marine animals such as snails and corals to make shells, and is affecting the smallest plants and animals that provide the base of the oceanic food chain.

Wanting to alert policy makers and politicians in an accessible and engaging way, Plymouth Marine Laboratory commissioned Stuart Moore and Kayla Parker of creative media and animation production company Sundog Media to worked with Dr Turley and children from Ridgeway School in Plymouth on the production and animation of a short film about ‘the other C02 problem’.

Stuart had collaborated with the school previously on the EUR-OCEANS award-winning film ‘Our Coast, Our Sea, OUR PLANET!', and was able to capitalise on this experience, working with a team of 17 children aged from 11 to 15 years.

The project kicked off with a lecture from Dr Turley at the school, followed by the children and their teachers spending a day at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth researching and drawing the animals. The kids then spent an intensive five days working in an animation studio specially set up for the project, working with expert film-makers Stuart and Kayla on developing the script and characters, designing and sculpting the coloured clay models, then recording the children’s voices and creating the stop-motion animation frame-by-frame, followed finally by the production of original music and animated titles.

The animated film features King Poseidon and his underwater advisory team, with worried scientist Doctorpus breaking the news that the ocean is becoming dangerously acidic. The king sends Britney Star and Michelle Mussel to investigate, and ‘the other C02 problem’ is illustrated by scenes featuring a sea lion, a seal, and Derek the diatom. Doctorpus tells Poseidon that the only answer is to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the sea, but Squid Marley point outs that it's human beings that need to change before it's too late. Hoisting the king’s trident above the waves as a transmitter, they broadcast a message to warn us to 'Act now!' and cut down our carbon dioxide emissions.

“We combined low-tech clay modelling to form the stars of the film and computer-based animation to bring them to life," said Kayla. "The students were able to watch the film develop before their eyes. The process was like watching thought happen as the students collaborated, evolved the story, created the models and captured it through animation."

'It's a credit to the kids that they were able to work in such a productive and focused way on what is fairly complex subject matter,' says Stuart.

Kayla believes that clay animation in particular allows children to express their thoughts in a visual form which is very powerful and immediate. She says, “I think we need to raise awareness of the issues facing our planet in different ways and across a range of media, so that the messages are reinforced and more people are switched on to what's happening. Work that describes things from a child's perspective is really valuable because they will be trying to deal with these potential future environmental catastrophes when they are grown up.”

Publication and comments
“brilliant… This is one of the clearest communiques about the problems that the ocean faces from acidification.” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, University of Queensland, co-author of the royal society report on ocean acidification, ‘Box 6: EPOCA outreach activities’ Carol Turley, Kelly-Marie Davidson, Dan Laffoley, and Philippe Saugier, Oceanography (Volume 22 Number 4 Special Issue: European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA): objectives, products, and scientific highlights) (December 2009).

‘The Other CO2 Problem’ Linda Gilroy’s contribution to Energy and Climate Change and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on day 4 of the Queen’s Speech debate in Parliament; Linda Gilroy was then MP for Plymouth Sutton (24 November 2009)

‘Derek the Diatom and Doctorpus take on the terrestrials’ Kelvin Boot, Microbiology Today (November 2009)

The Other CO2 Problem Kate Herbert, The Ecologist (1 September 2009)

“When I watched the film I was touched, it is simple and has a strong message. It is the perfect vehicle for telling the world about ocean acidification.” “Dr Gerald Ganssen, the Vice President of the European Geosciences Union ‘Double accolade for Plymouth school’, EPOCA (16 June 2009)

‘Plymouth school children and 'The Other CO2 Problem’’ Sea Vision UK (2009)

The Other CO2 Problem Kelvin Boot, Planet Earth online: environmental research news. National Environment Council (28 April 2009)

Helping Planet Ocean Kelvin Boot, Devon Life (26 March 2009)

“a clear, creative and inspiring message from the younger generation to the politicians who will shortly negotiate the future of our planet, the future planet that this younger generation will inherit from us.” Dr John Baxter, a scientist working with Scottish Natural Heritage, in response to the screening at the International Congress on Climate Change, where Dr Carol Turley presented a preview of the film for feedback from the scientists (March 2009)

The Other CO2 Problem from Sundog Media on Vimeo.

Exhibition (selected)
GreenSpace part of Peninsula Arts’ Darwin Celebrations; in association with the Centre for Sustainable Futures and Land/Water and the Visual Arts research group; Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK. The film was introduced by Kelvin Boot, for Plymouth Marine Laboratory (19 November 2009)

Collaboration Celebration, National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, UK. Plymouth, UK. Event to celebrate collaboration between education, industry, higher education and other organisations, organised by the Plymouth 14-19 Education Partnership; The Other CO2 Problem was one of six projects featured (14 July 2009)

The Royal Institution of Great Britain, London, UK. Presented by Dr Carol Turley (world premiere, 20 March 2009)

The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change, Copenhagen, Denmark. Presented by Dr Carol Turley (preview screening, 10 - 12 March 2009)