The 'Overview Effect'
Last week, the Oscars once again saw the finest filmmakers awarded for cinematic excellence. Daniel Day Lewis made Oscar history, Ben Affleck’s Argo seized an award for best picture and the cast of Les Misérables took to the stage.
But far removed from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, there’s another film that’s getting quite a lot of attention. Two months ago, on the 40th anniversary of the famous ‘Blue Marble’ photograph taken of Earth from space, Overview was released online. At just 19 minutes long, it’s a short film that has a big impact.
Featuring interviews with astronauts, philosophers and authors, the film explores the phenomenon known as the ‘Overview Effect’. First described by author Frank White in 1987, it is an experience that transforms astronauts’ perspective of the planet and mankind’s place upon it. Common features of the experience are a feeling of awe for the planet, a profound understanding of the interconnection of all life, and a renewed sense of responsibility for taking care of the environment.
Each and every experience we have will have some impact on our perspective, whether apparent or not. Taking a trip to the desert will change your relationship to water. Heading into space and looking back at the earth could change our understanding of ‘spaceship earth’ and radically alter the way we see ourselves in relation to it. It could give us a greater appreciation for how interconnected it all is.
Which leads me to the conclusion that, in our drive towards sustainability, we should be launching each and every person into orbit for a glimpse of the blue marble and a dose of the overview effect.
It’s a shame the budgets probably won’t stretch to that, but Overview is an exceptional substitute. After 19 minutes you will have experienced some essence of this phenomena and perhaps have a little more acknowledgement that ‘we’re all living in this one ecosystem called earth’.
- Overview is to be followed by a feature film, Continuum, a documentary about where we have come from, who we are, and the possibilities for our future. You can see the trailer here and get involved in this project through Kickstarter here.
- Guy Reid, the director of Overview, graduated from the Forum for the Future Masters in 2011. You can see his film about the Masters here.