Netflix's film about a burned-out man and an octopus is the antidote to 2020

Ehrlich has been surprised and delighted by feedback for “My Octopus Teacher,” particularly hearing Jane Goodall say her favorite films are “The Lord of the Rings” and “My Octopus Teacher.” In another touching instance, a 6-year-old girl in India took the film’s trailer and spliced in her own narration, sharing everything she learned about octopuses from the documentary.

"I've read thousands of messages," she said.

Ehrlich hopes the film reminds viewers how important it is to stay connected with nature, and not just to depend on it for food and breathing — “every second breath that you breathe into your lungs comes from oxygen that is created by our oceans,” she noted — but our mental well-being as well.
Southern Africa's kelp forest stretches 1,300 km (about 808 miles) along the coastlines of South Africa and Namibia. Craig Foster co-founded the nonprofit Sea Change Project to help protect the Great African Sea Forest from climate change, pollution, overfishing, coastal development and other threats.Pippa Ehrlich / Copyright The Sea Change Project

“To really put energy and time into nurturing our relationship with the wild is one of the most — and I’m speaking from experience now — one of the most reassuring and fulfilling things that you can do with your time,” she said. “It makes you think very differently about how we consume natural resources. It makes you think carefully about what this incredible natural system is giving to us, and what we can do in return, in terms of having a more reciprocal, respectful, even reverential relationship with the living planet.”

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Ehrlich pointed out that few people know that 25% of global coastlines are kelp forests. Coral reefs get a lot of attention, but kelp forests were fairly unknown before the film.

“The incidence of endemic species in kelp forests is huge, but what’s happening with climate change is almost every kelp forest in the world is shifting and changing,” she said. “Very few of them are stable. For example, in Tasmania, kelp forests have disappeared over a number of years, and that’s because of climate change. In that case, a warm current drifted down, and with that warm current came a species of urchins that shouldn’t have been in that area, and those urchins literally just devoured the entire kelp forest. … We’re just trying to give kelp forests a voice.”