Godzilla – An Environmental Respective
(Transcript of Speech by Alex (Al) Scilla)
From the 1st Feast and Fire Fundraiser, Oct 31st 2021
Happy Halloween, all – Welcome to our inaugural Feast and Fire Fundraiser, this first of what shall become the highlight of the Fall, in this year and forever onwards.
For our inaugural screening, we bring you Godzilla (original and uncut), followed by Godzilla vs Hedorah (alt. The Smog Monster), presented tonight as an environmental double feature. Let’s start by speaking briefly about Godzilla, the environmentalist.
So, we know that Godzilla started as a statement on the nuclear age; the origin of the story being specifically based on the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident. This involved a tuna boat caught in the periphery of the hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll in March 1954, resulting in severe radiation sickness for the crew of that ill-fated ship. The film’s opening attack by Godzilla on the salvage ship stands in for this affair. Of course, looking at things through our current lens, we may feel this focus on nuclear as our most immediate threat seems almost pastoral compared to the myriad of environmental crises we have knocking on our doors now, but the principle remains the same, and the cautionary call is equally suited to modern circumstances.
Following this first film, the environmental messaging of the series gradually (maybe swiftly, actually) became less pronounced in following releases; but, then – we come to Godzilla vs Hedorah. It’s here we have peak Godzilla environmental activism, our often misunderstood conservationist fighting a monster borne of industrial sludge, air, and water pollution.
I would argue this, in fact, to be the more relevant work now, as carbon and emissions have really become the ever present and pervasive nemesis of our environment, in a way that nuclear was feared but never ended up being.
The 70’s were the time where industrialization had led Japan to the height of its environmental degradation, and of course here back in the US we had our vistas of burning rivers embodied in the 1969 Cuyahoga River affair (the source of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and the creation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA)). By our grace though we were spared the attack of a Hedorah or equivalent and at last some structural oversight and awareness of our effect on our surroundings was allowed to come into life.
Of course we no longer, for the most part, have the spectacle of these grand visual displays of unnatural environmental peril (exempting the periodic oil spill), these being replaced by the forces of nature being amplified to the biblical; in the recent flooding, wildfires, and storms; in the plagues; in the invasive plants, insects, and aquatic creatures. In a way we’ve returned to the original Godzilla – nature (through our actions) being recast as an avenging entity, striking at us from the depths.
We ignore this reality, while leaving our tools of prevention and remediation fallow, at our own risk, as the Godzilla that lives in our world is still there, waiting and watching to emerge and send us back to antiquity.
At this point, I’ll leave it to you all to individually to further analyze and interpret the message that Godzilla brought us, and is still bringing us, these many years past.
And we go to the screen…