Environmental Artist : Hayao Miyazaki
Few have had such an impact on the film industry, the animation industry, and had such a clear environmentalist message as Japanese animator/animation director Hayao Miyazaki. The beautiful watercolor backgrounds and scnenery of his films is legendary and demonstrates a real appreciation of nature right off the bat. Also, most of his films have as a central conflict the foolish destruction of the environment by humans, with the protagonist usually being a strong proponent for defending this nature.
plot: Humans are cutting down the forest to run their forge. In doing so, they are angering the gods of the forest. The main character Ashitaka is cursed with a mark left on him by a boar-god who was slowly dying (“poisoned”) of a bullet wound. In this film, the avarice and artificial weaponry of man is concretized as being poisonus and corruptive, while nature is divine and full of wonder.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Of all his films, this might be Miyazaki’s most obviously environmentalist-themed movie. Set in a post apocalyptic world where nature has retaliated to the wars of man with deadly forest spreading poisonous spores, humans are forced to wear breathing masks and one colony takes refuge in a valley where the wind cannot carry the infectious spores. Nausicaa, the main character, grows her own forbidden garden where she proves that with care and the right environment, the once poisonous plants return to their harmless states. It cannot be overstated how simple this message is and how true it still rings today: Nature is not inherently poisonous. It is a beautiful system that moderates and balances itself, and by meddling and abusing this world, we render it hostile and poisonous. I appreciate the message that should we return to a harmony with nature, it could easily revert to a healthy equilibrium, we just have to take that first step!
Castle in the Sky
Again, more anti-war than environmentalism, but same thing: foolishness of man knows no bounds, and it eventually affects all of us, not just those on the war front. Howl, a magician, offers Sophie an entire meadow of flowers. It is untouched and beautiful, but, one day, the war ships that Howl goes off to fight in a distant land appear floating over the fields of flowers.
Castle In the Sky
This one does include an antagonistic militarist antagonist, and a general anti-war message, but it also contains subtle scenes that hint at a respect towards nature. At one point, the two main characters crash land on a floating castle, and one of the guardian robots gently moves their ship to protect a nearby nest of baby birds. It is an interesting because this robot, originally a tool or pure destruction, shows more compassion for the tiny lives of birds than most humans.
This intangible quality discussed in Castle in the Sky, this ever present nod to nature as almost an ever present main character is what, in this writer’s opinion, gives most of Miyazaki’s films such charm, among other things. And whether he’s being subtle or blatant with his message, you can’t help but leave each of his movies with just a little bit more wonder in your heart for this Earth we take for granted.