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Kitchen Kabaret   |   Listen to the Land   |   Symbiosis


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Land food court and balloons

 Symbiosis was a 70mm film shown on a 23 by 60 foot screen in the Harvest Theatre.  Most written material spells the movie's home as "Harvest Theater" but the sign outside of the entrance spelled it "Harvest Theatre".  The movie was located on the upper level of the pavilion and to the right, roughly above the boarding area for the boat ride.  
 The film was directed by Paul Gerber with music by Patrick Gleeson and it  focused on the balance between technological expansion and the protection of the environment.  An opening day EPCOT Center attraction, the film closed on January 1, 1995 and was replaced by Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable.  The new film featured some reedited clips from Symbiosis.

Symbiosis Script

Narrator:  Nothing in the universe exists alone.  Every drop of water, every human being, all creatures in the web of life and all ideas in the web of knowledge are part of an immense, evolving dynamic whole.  As old, and as young as the universe itself. (The sun is shown rising, followed by scenic shots of a dessert, cliffs along a river, crashing waves, a spider spinning a web, geese taking flight, and shots of animals such as horses running, flamingos in the water, elephants and giraffes.  After some more shots of Africa, tribal members are shown hunting.  A dog sled crosses a snowy landscape and a fisherman casts a net into the water.  Laplanders are shown herding reindeer.)

All creatures in the web of life, all ideas in the web of knowledge.  (A Native American rides a horse overlooking a river.  Suddenly the camera pulls back across the water to reveal a huge dam.  Rushing water engulfs the screen.)  Suddenly, this timeless equation, this delicate balance seems threatened.  (The Great Pyramids appear on the screen.  Terraced fields on a mountain are shown, as well as Roman aqueducts.)  Suddenly we've begun changing our world rather than adapting to it.  Suddenly?   Not really.  

History has surrounded us with monuments to our enthusiasm for changing the environment.  An enthusiasm prompted by the most basic of all motivations, survival.  (A water buffalo is shown working in the Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines.  Villagers work on harvesting rice as children run by. )

Certainly nothing less motivated the Ifugao tribe to undertake the terracing of these magnificent mountains in the Philippines over 3,000 years ago.  It was a simple, direct answer to the food problem of their time.  But what of the food problem of our time?  (A modern city, complete with gridlocked traffic is shown.)

Symbiosis rice paddy

The International Rice Research Institute, less than 125 miles from the Ifugao and their terraces.  Here research into the very chemistry of growing things, coupled with the permanent cold storage of every type of rice seed known to exist, gives scientists the opportunity to create new, more productive, easier to grown strains of rice.  (Researchers are shown working in the laboratory.) Yesterday's technology, and today's.  (The film shows a close up of someone working on an individual rice plant, then pulls out to show the scientists developing new techniques.) Only 125 miles, but 3,000 years of time lie between.

(The scene flies over the rice paddies and then becomes a desert.) North Africa and the Middle East.  Not land, but water has always been the missing element.  For thousands of years, the people here have used all their ingenuity to make the best use of what little could be found, and nothing has changed, except the approach.  (An old-fashioned water wheel is shown as camels walk by in the background.) In one such new approach, plastic irrigation tubing is laid on apparently useless land in Israel.  And computers, reading information provided by sensors in the fields, control the flow, delivering the water to where it is most needed, drop by precious drop.  And the desert blooms.  Yes, the desert blooms.  But if the problem here has always been too little water, elsewhere, it's another story.  Not too little, but too much.  (The camera flies over water and then shows the Dutch countryside.)

Holland, where out of necessity, water management approaches art.  (The blades are a wind mill are shown spinning, as well as the insides of the mill.)  Quaint today, Holland's windmills were actually built as part of what is now an incredibly elaborate 900 year old water removal system.  A system without which more than half this country would be underwater.  A system still being built.  The world's most sophisticated hydraulic laboratories are now creating Holland's enormous new southern delta flood control system.  Planning everything down to the minutest detail, are models that belie the project's immense scale.  And all of this, is happening side by side with this. (A field of tulips in shown in the picturesque Dutch countryside.) Yes, nothing has changed, while everything has.  We have always intervened in nature.  But sadly, these interventions have not always been so benign.  

Symbiosis wind mills

(Archival footage from the 1930s is shown.)  With an unbridled enthusiasm for technology, we misused our farmlands, watching helplessly as our precious topsoil blew away in the dustbowl or washed away in the rain.   We misused our forests, watching helplessly as barren hillsides created floods where there were none before.   (Modern factories are shown discharging sewage into the water.)  Abused our lakes, rivers and streams to dispose of our wastes and looked on helplessly as they began to die.  But then, finally, we decided that this tragic waste could not go on, that we would have to take charge of our technology if we were to co-exist with it.  And then, more importantly, we actually began to do it.

(Big Ben and the River Thames are shown.)  In England, where after hundreds of years of pollution so severe no fish remained in the River Thames, twenty years of intense effort to restore it to health have seen the fish begin to return.  And Europe's Lake Constance, where the cooperation of three nations, Switzerland, Germany and Austria was required to save the lake from the ravages of population growth on its shores.  And in Oregon, where the Willamette River, also under the pressures of population growth and industrial expansion, was dying.  

But now the oxygenation ponds prepare industrial water for safe return to the river, and because of new concepts like these and the laws that require their use, the Willamette runs clean again.  And constant monitoring of the river's water promises to keep it useful, healthy and safe for everyone. (Scientists in a boat are shown checking the water quality of the river and then kids are shown jumping into the water.)  

But what about forests?  What have we learned from our past mistakes with our forests?  Much.  From Germany's Black Forest, successfully managed for over 600 years.  From the well-managed forests of Sweden, (Camera pulls up the to show the height of the trees.) and from the forests of America's Great Northwest one fact has made itself unmistakably clear.  No forest is big enough to withstand unassisted the onslaught of technological man. (Loggers are shown sawing and chopping down trees.) No forest, unassisted.  And so, we assist, using nature's own internal tool, fire. (A helicopter sets fire to the remains of a hillside forest after the logging is done.)

Yes, using fire just as nature does, to set the stage for renewal. (People are shown planting new trees.) Planting tomorrow's forests, and then waiting.  Ten years and more to keep our forests not simply productive but a place of life, wonder and beauty as well.  And whatever happened to the Dust Bowl?  This. (Archival footage of the Dust Bowl gives way to a green farm field.) To what do we owe this remarkable recovery?  In large part, ironically enough, to technology.  To the technology of irrigation, using our water resources with greater care and effectiveness.  To the technology of no-till farming; planting crops with out plowing in order to protect the topsoil.  And to the technology of planting nothing at all, fallow field farming, giving the soil precious time to regenerate its own fertility before being used again.  

Yes, we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.  For although chemicals and pesticides are vital tools in fighting world hunger, will we employ adequate foresight to ensure that some do not again turn up in the food chain or environment? (A crop duster is shown flying over a field.) How much longer will more than one-fourth of the world's food supply rot on the ground or be ruined by pests simply because of a lack of proper storage or delivery systems?  How much more of the world's precious arable land will be made useless by poor planning or uncontrolled  development?  And how much more of the world's rain will fall bearing pollutants that poison our lakes, rivers and streams?  (A farmer is shown surveying a field.) For many of these problems, solutions already exist.  For others, they can be found.  It is within our power to address these issues.  It is within our power to use or to abuse.  To ruin or restore.  To marshal, or to waste.  What is needed, is the will.  For every drop of water, every human being, all creatures in the web of life, nothing in the universe exists alone.  (Camera pulls up from the farm field into the sky.)

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See ya real soon!