Hayao Miyazaki: Environmentalism And Pacifism

Hayao Miyazaki: Environmentalism And Pacifism

A look at some of Hayao Miyazaki's central themes connected to his films.
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Throughout my life, I’ve had a huge passion for animation that started with Studio Ghibli’s Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki retired recently in 2013 after his final film The Wind Rises. So naturally, I took it upon myself to watch all of his films this past month; this only strengthened my love and admiration for his work. With his departure, he left a significant mark on animation and the way we teach children through media as a whole. Miyazaki created profound messages centered in environmentalism and pacifism that only enriched the viewing experience for not only children but the expanding audience he gained throughout his life.

Environmentalism

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) is easily one of Hayao Miyazaki’s greatest epics. This film is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, ravaged and turned to ash by humanity’s greed and war. Nausicaä is the title character, a princess of the last area of livable land thanks to the natural resources the wind and rivers provide. Once neighboring kingdoms discover her home and its resources, she has to find a solution to prevent the ruin or her country. The film itself focuses on Nausicaä trying to find an alternate route to improving the earth. She fights against all the odds to make it clear that there’s another way to save the planet, one that helps the earth heal from its poisons. This film centers in Miyazaki’s feelings about pollution, and the damage it hence causes to the earth; the destruction via fire and poison alludes to nuclear war, as well.

After the film’s release, Miyazaki continued with this trend of promoting environmentalism, or even just the presence of nature as a center in his creations. Princess Mononoke (1997) features a war between nature versus industrialism and serves to be an important lesson on cherishing and respecting the environment; if there’s too much industry the world can become imbalanced. Spirited Away (2001), features an encounter with a Stink Spirit, which turned out to be a River Spirit with a lost identity caused by pollution; Miyazaki mentioned in an interview that the spirit represented a polluted river in his hometown he helped clean. Ponyo (2008) frequently shows trash and debris in areas where the main character, Ponyo, is swimming in when she first encounters humans. Her father also talks about the greed of man and how they’re dangerous for Ponyo.

Pacifism

Princess Mononoke is also a hallmark into Hayao Miyazaki’s feelings of not only environmentalism but pacifism as well. The film is set up expecting the protagonist to choose a side, but it isn’t so simple as just picking one group over the other. Both characters that are seemingly villains on either side of the conflict turn out to be loved and care for by the people they look after. Another example is Spirited Away, where all of the characters have a motivation or something they care for, like Yubaba, the witch in charge of the bathhouse, and her baby. Miyazaki pushes characters to have a hidden side to them, a trait that makes them human to the audience, and to find a way for all parties to be happy without having to pick between two sides. Another good example would be My Neighbor Totoro (1988), where there isn’t explicitly a villain at all. The central conflict is between the two sisters and their anxiety over moving and their mother getting better. The story focuses on the dynamic of the sisters and the adventures they have together, and there isn’t a real villain in the story. This serves to Miyazaki’s beliefs and creates a way to make fascinating, complex characters that are three-dimensional.

In Miyazaki’s daily life, pacifism is a belief and practice that influences him. As a small child, Miyazaki experienced firebombing as a child in during World War Two. His experiences of war left a lasting impression and he continuously speaks out against the violence. When Miyazaki won the Oscar for Spirited Away in 2003, he refused to go to the ceremony because of his disapproval of America invading Iraq; Miyazaki didn’t come back to America until 2009. He still speaks out against political policies that he believes harms pacifism and diplomacy.

Conclusion

Hayao Miyazaki has continuously kept a consistent message throughout his films; there’s always multiple sides to a story, there's always a path out of conflict that doesn't involve violence, and we have to cherish and appreciate nature instead of ruining it. A reason Miyazaki’s films will continue to be beloved is that these lessons are only a small piece to his movies; it’s just a stepping stone that enriches the bigger picture. So many of his films have this quality to them that makes them a wonder to watch; whether it’s the hand-drawn animation, the story, the characters, or the charm the entity of the film holds, there’s always something to enjoy and appreciate about every film that Miyazaki created. He may have retired, but his films will remain important, relevant, and valued by fans for generations.


Cover Image Credit: Imgur

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Cover Image Credit: http://nd01.jxs.cz/368/634/c6501cc7f9_18850334_o2.jpg

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My AP Environmental Science Class' Cookie Mining Experiment Shows Why Capitalism Is Destroying The Planet

Who cares about the environment with profits this high?

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With the AP exams in May approaching quickly, my AP Environmental Science class has wasted no time in jumping right into labs. To demonstrate the damage to the environment done by strip mining, we were instructed to remove the chocolate chips from cookies.

The experiment in itself was rather simple. We profited from fully or partially extracted chips ($8 for a full piece and $4 for a partial) and lost from buying tools, using time and area and incurring fines.

This might seem simplistic, but it showcased the nature of disastrous fossil fuel companies.

We were fined a $1 per minute we spent mining. It cost $4 per tool we bought (either tweezers or paper clips) and 50 cents for every square centimeter of cookie we mined.

Despite the seemingly overbearing charges compared to the sole way to profit, it was actually really easy to profit.

If we found even a partial chocolate chip per minute, that's $3 profit or utilization elsewhere. Tools were an investment that could be made up each with a partial chip, and clearly we were able to find much, much more than just one partial chip per tool.

Perhaps the most disproportionally easiest thing to get around were the fines. We were liable to be fined for habitat destruction, dangerous mining conditions with faulty tools, clutter, mess and noise level. No one in the class got fined for noise level nor faulty tools, but we got hit with habitat destruction and clutter, both of which added up to a mere $6.

We managed to avoid higher fines by deceiving our teacher by pushing together the broken cookie landscapes and swiping away the majority of our mess before being examined for fining purposes. This was amidst all of our cookies being broken into at least three portions.

After finding many, many chips, despite the costs of mining, we profited over $100. We earned a Franklin for destroying our sugary environment.

We weren't even the worst group.

It was kind of funny the situations other groups simulated to their cookies. We were meant to represent strip mining, but one group decided to represent mountaintop removal. Mountaintop removal is where companies go to extract resources from the tops of mountains via explosions to literally blow the tops off. This group did this by literally pulverizing their cookies to bits and pieces with their fists.

They incurred the maximum fine of $45. They didn't profit $100, however.

They profited over $500 dollars.

In the context of our environmental science class, these situations were anywhere from funny to satisfying. In the context of the real world, however, the consequences are devastating our environment.

Without even mentioning the current trajectory we're on approaching a near irreversible global temperature increase even if we took drastic measures this moment, mining and fracking is literally destroying ecosystems.



We think of earthquakes as creating mass amounts of sudden movement and unholy deep trenches as they fracture our crust. With dangerous mining habits, we do this ourselves.

Bigger companies not even related to mining end up destroying the planet and even hundreds of thousands of lives. ExxonMobil, BP? Still thriving in business after serial oil spills over the course of their operation. Purdue Pharma, the company who has misled the medical community for decades about the effects of OxyContin and its potential for abuse, is still running and ruining multitudes more lives every single day.

Did these companies receive fines? Yes.

But their business model is too profitable to make the fines have just about any effect upon their operation.

In our cookie mining simulation, we found that completely obliterating the landscape was much more profitable than being careful and walking on eggshells around the laws. Large, too-big-to-fail companies have held the future of our planet in their greedy paws and have likewise pulverized our environment, soon enough to be unable to return from.

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