Animal Collective’s 'Tangerine Reef': Myth, Mystery and Subtle Environmentalism
By David Colgan
Covering less than two percent of the ocean floor, they are home to a quarter of all marine species. But unlike rainforests, a longtime conservation focus, corals have received relatively little attention. The alien-looking seascapes have captivated explorers, divers and others privileged enough to visit, but remained largely out of sight for most people.
Animal Collective's latest album and video Tangerine Reef' was created to coincide with International Year of the Reef.Animal Collective
That environment of the unknown—and protecting it—was the motivation for Animal Collective's latest album and video, Tangerine Reef. The album was created to coincide with International Year of the Reef, said Brian Weitz (geologist), who performs synths, samples and electronic effects for the band.In keeping with the band's name, the members of Animal Collective all care about nature and the environment, Weitz said. And enigmatic, bizarre-looking corals made a natural partner to Animal Collective's sound.
"We want our music to be a little bit mysterious and a little abstract to allow people to have their own interactions with it—and not guide them too strongly on how they should be interacting with it," Weitz said. "I believe that about art in general."
The video for Tangerine Reef shows corals moving 10 times their natural speed, making them seem otherworldly but humanlike. Slimy appendages wriggle and feed neon, tessellating mouths. At times, they seem to smile. At other times, the images drift into patterns and abstraction.
There is still a lot we don't know about corals: Scientists weren't sure how they reproduced until 1981 and researchers are still learning the details about how they live, grow and respond to environmental stresses.
Globally, corals are threatened by warming waters and ocean acidification, twin effects of carbon emissions and climate change. They are also under attack by localized threats like overfishing, invasive species and pollution.
Weitz, an avid scuba diver with two degrees from Columbia University—a bachelor's in environmental biology and a master's in environmental science and policy—said the band created Tangerine Reef to inspire appreciation of corals. Still, you'd be hard pressed to find a clear message or call to action. Their primary objective is still to entertain.
"We've definitely struggled with when, as a band, we want to come out and say something political," Weitz said. "We're not getting too 'Bono' about it," he joked, referring to the outspoken U2 singer.
Tangerine Reef was produced in tandem with Coral Morphologic, a Miami-based art-science duo on a mission to grow, document and protect corals. Biologist Colin Foord and musician J.D. McKay raise individual specimens in their lab and sell them to hobbyists around the country. They also pioneered a filming technique that brings out the best in corals' movements and fluorescent patterns. Their work has been presented in museums, featured in publications such as National Geographic—even projected on buildings in downtown Miami.
One of the group's primary goals is to make corals more relatable.
The band Animal Collective produced "Tangerine Reef" in tandem with Coral Morphologic, a Miami-based art-science duo on a mission to grow, document and protect corals around the world. Animal Collective / David Lynch Festival of Disruption
"The icons of conservation are panda bears," Foord said. "They're cute and cuddly. Coral doesn't have a brain, it doesn't have eyes. It lives on a 700-year timespan, compared to humans' 70-year timespan. When you speed them up ten times, you're bringing them to a time frame we can empathize with."
Land-dwelling species such as snakes, lions and buffalo feature prominently in human myths, traditional stories that often attempt to explain natural phenomena. Foord thinks corals may get a more prominent role in such stories now that technology makes them visible.
"They are kind of future mythologists, showing us what we need to understand in order to adapt and be more resilient in the future," Foord said. "The slogan of coral today, as it has been for half a billion years, is 'adapt or die.' You're cemented in place. If it gets too hot or too polluted, you can't just swim away."
Likewise, he said, humans can't just pick up and leave a warming, changing planet. We must reckon with global conditions we have a hand in creating.
Both Foord and Weitz began environmental careers before switching to arts. When talking to Weitz, it becomes clear that he feels a little guilty about leaving that work behind. For him, the excitement of making and performing music was too intriguing to pass up.
"You create something and then you put it out there in the world. You interact with fans at live shows," Weitz said. "The give and take of positive energy is really tangible and it happens in a really short timeframe."
"Coral doesn't have a brain, it doesn't have eyes. It lives on a 700-year timespan, compared to humans' 70-year timespan. When you speed them up ten times, you're bringing them to a time frame we can empathize with." Animal Collective
Psychedelic qualities of animals, including corals, play a role in many of Animal Collective's songs and albums. Samples from nature, whether the songs of marine mammals or sounds from a Brazilian rainforest, are distorted to the point where it's not clear exactly what the listener is hearing. Weitz hopes the results are as captivating as coral reefs are to him when he's scuba diving.
"That's our main goal. Just a sense of awe and inspiration," Weitz said.
It's up to individuals themselves take the next step of caring about the animals and what happens to them, he said.
Ursula Heise, an expert on environmental narratives at UCLA, said she found the album "meditative," inviting contemplation.
"Avey Tare's voice often sounds very mournful, and it's mourning the loss of something but we don't see that loss depicted in the images," Heise said. "There is an odd tension between the beauty of the images and the desolation and melancholy that is obvious in quite a few of the tracks on the album."
Scientists Battle Mysterious Pathogen Destroying Coral Reefs Off Florida Coast https://t.co/gcEF629vES @JeremyLeggett @climateinstitut— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1518611709.0
This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
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In his latest documentary, My Octopus Teacher, free diver and filmmaker Craig Foster tells a unique story about his friendship and bond with an octopus in a kelp forest in Cape Town, South Africa. It's been labeled "the love story that we need right now" by The Cut.
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