Anyone seen the documentary Babies? It’s at Vinegar Hill through next week. Without any narration, it follows four babies through the first year of life. Their families live in very different circumstances: a hut in Namibia, a yurt in Mongolia, apartments in Tokyo and San Francisco.
I saw it a couple of days ago and found it captivating—even if you don’t have a thing for babies, it’s still fascinating from all kinds of social perspectives, plus the pure National Geographic interest of seeing the way people live in different parts of the globe. The babies really become a lens for the contrasts among these four worlds. And if you’re of a green mindset, you’re likely to find plenty of food for thought.
First of all, the parents in developed countries, obviously, provide a lot more stuff for their babies: shelves of books, toys, cute little outfits. In Namibia, there’s nary a stroller to be seen. And it’s fairly clear, at least from the filmmakers’ perspective, that the kids with no possessions are at least as happy as the kids with tons of possessions. The Namibian baby plays with a tin can, a puppy, another kid. The Japanese baby plays with wooden toys and a cell phone, but not to any obvious benefit.
While the American and Japanese parents take their kids to the pediatrician and read parenting books, the Namibian and Mongolian families are busy managing livestock. They live close to those animals and close to the land—I’d even say, in the case of Namibia, immersed in the land. Cut back to San Francisco: half a dozen parents sitting in a circle, singing some kind of "tribal" chant that then breaks into English. "The earth is our mother/ She will take care of us…"
Go see it with an enviro type and see what kind of discussion ensues. Anyone want to weigh in here?