This quote by Julia Roberts came to mind recently as I watched her 2022 film Ticket to Paradise (also starring George Clooney). Generally, both actors bare their extraordinary teeth plenty as they convey emotion. Joy. Awe. Love. Confidence. Support of others even when mired in self-doubt.
I for one never tire of their smiles and grimaces, or their exceptional pearlies. Clearly, their stardom and the extraordinary lives that go with it are well earned. Even their mouths deserve applause just for being.
Yet the film’s natural backdrop. Wow. The Whitsunday Islands off the central coast of Queensland, Australia—they, too, deserve props just for being. The Aussie setting stood in for Bali, which was off limits at the time of filming due to COVID-19.
So, near a paradisiacal beach on Long Island, Queensland, the film stars worked in a “Balinese” seaweed farm consisting of bamboo frames floating on picturesque, perfectly waist-deep ocean water.
Meanwhile here in mainland America, the day’s wonders have been no less awesome. An unusual pair of flycatchers darting through the garden. The swift movement of clouds over emerald-green treetops. An oriole whistling with a giant-sized voice. An endlessly engaging outdoors.
Significantly, plenty of Balinese suffered or perished during COVID as the economy took a dive. Hunger, despair, and addiction were widespread. The reasons for workers to abandon their seaweed farms to return to former jobs are many, largely economic. So are the reasons to maintain widespread aquaculture. More stable local economies. Better whole-community standards of living. Diversified livelihoods for a country that has gone in whole-hog for tourism.
Seaweed farming comes with a huge sustainability side, hinted at in the Amazon-produced film. (“We just signed a contract with Whole Foods,” claims the young seaweed farmer and love interest.) Demand for seaweed-based biomass is growing (for food, medicine) as our needs for its benefits increase (e.g., carbon dioxide [CO2] fixation, easing of agricultural land impacts).
In some countries, seaweed aquaculture is on the rise thanks to government targets to reduce methane emissions (in parts of Australia, by 30% below 2020 levels). Those targets lead to more private and public investing in finding markets for the aqua-raised foods and boosting production.
So, I’m amazed to learn, those little old things called emissions targets do matter—and not just in 2025 or 2050 or other far-off dream dates. Apparently they also make a difference now, often in ways we can’t foresee.
Meanwhile, this film’s message was sweet: we can’t always foresee, either, what will make for a happy life. It’s not about the goods and acquisitions or appearances. It just might be about living in alignment with our values, in nature, with family and friends, that delivers the things we need and want. Things like joy, awe, love, and, no doubt, extraordinary smiles.
Like “Extraordinary”? READ MORE: What I Never Told You: Stories (Wavegirl, 2022). Back in print following a limited-distribution edition, Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water (Little Curlew Press, 2014).