Global climate change has just acquired a new voice of reason, a morally persuasive guide with a healing touch. He's an immigrant from Norway who came to the US as a boy and is now a retired educator and devoted grandfather who can still speak his mother tongue.
Meet Sven. Sven Huseby.
Over the last two and half years he went around the world to investigate the face of climate change as he found it reflected in the oceans, a journey he undertook for the sake of his attentive five-year old grandson, Elias.
The story of the journey and the poignant dialogue between Sven and Elias were captured on film by award-winning director Barbara Ettinger, who has created a tale of moral justice out of the fabric of undeniable ocean science, a tale which vibrates with the deep question of what we owe to future generations.
The film is called , and even conservative audiences filled with aggressive global warming naysayers find themselves afterward caught up in humbling discussions, persuaded that "it really is about the CO2, isn't it?" as many of them end up saying.
For the elevated levels of CO2 which Sven finds in the oceans, with the help of scientists and other guides, is science that no one can deny.
It is thanks to the oceans that there is 30% less CO2 in the atmosphere, and that global temperatures are cooler, but scientists have collected disturbing evidence that the oceans are paying a high price for the ecosystem services they are being forced to provide. They are starting to succumb to ocean acidification -- an advancing global climate catastrophe that is already upon us.
There is so much CO2 in the oceans now that their very chemistry is changing. It is change on a geologic scale that is accelerating and will take millions of years to reverse. It has been caused directly by the absorption of hundreds of billion of tons of man-made CO2 -- so far -- into the waters that cover most of the earth.
As its name implies, ocean acidification is resulting in measurable changes in the oceans' pH. There is enough increased acidity already to cause microscopic shell-forming creatures at the bottom of the food chain to dissolve and die. Scientists fear that as acidification continues, the food chain above, which these creatures sustain, will starve and collapse. "Imagine a world without fish," the film's web site instructs.
But watching the film, it's impossible. It is interlaced with astonishing footage of ocean creatures of wondrous beauty. They inhabit an unknown world rendered haunting and alluring thanks to music courtesy of the Swedish group Vassen, Phillip Glass and others -- and we're reminded viscerally of our appalling ignorance and awakened to what's at stake.
"Look at that! I adore them," Sven says, regarding tiny pteropods flap their calcium wings, defenseless in the water but for the attention of this curious and receptive Norwegian-American, it seems.
Sven is an able guide through the accelerating sea change, not only in the oceans, but in the the celluloid world of film as well. The Nobel Laureate-to-be pointing out inconvenient truths in a lecture hall is giving way now to this Everyman demonstrating the simple moral imperatives of preserving the natural world for future generations.
It's hard not to be stirred to primeval depths when you watch a moment Sven and Elias share on a sandy coastline: Grandfather and grandson together witness the surfacing of a whale upon the ocean waters.
A Sea Change was a project that found Sven Huseby and Barbara Ettinger unexpectedly. They had just finished another film project, looking forward to some down time to recharge, when they read an article in The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert called . Published in November 2006, the piece stunned the filmmakers.