Add Bengal tigers to your list of climate threats to humans

New animated short takes us to a bleak future in a flooded coastal city in India

Above, the trailer for Wade. In a version of Kolkata, India rendered unbearable due to the rising sea level, things take a dark turn when a family of climate change refugees are ambushed by a tiger on the flooded streets.

SAN FRANCISCO (Callaway Climate Insights) — They had me with the waist-high water and people sleeping on rooftops. But animators Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi of Ghost Animation in India made the climate-changed world of the near future even scarier.

We often don’t think of the impact of climate change on animals, besides maybe koalas killed in Australia’s wildfires. But the forced migration of much of the human race that is predicted as more of the world becomes uninhabitable will also impact animals, including dangerous ones.

Covid-19 has given us a taste of what can happen when we get too close to nature. Now these two excellent directors use the power of animation to take us further. All we can show is the trailer above, but readers who want to see the short film are encouraged to check out the film’s Facebook page for news of its film festival tour.

Meanwhile, here is our Q&A with Bhattacharyya and Sanghvi, the writers and directors of Ghost Animation’s short animated film, Wade, about how they came up with the idea and what is happening in their home city and country.

Question: What made you choose Kolkata as the location for the Wade animation? 

Answer: Both of us grew up in Kolkata. It is our home. We knew we wanted a film set in our city. Apart from that, Kolkata is line of an imminent disaster and we as film makers used animation as a medium to talk about that. 

Q. Describe how you chose to combine the impact of the rising waters on animals (tigers) as well as humans. That is an angle of the climate threat which I don't think is explored enough. 

A. Once the sea level rises it will affect forests, cities, humans and animals all alike. Everyone will suffer. The Sundarbans delta just south of the city of Kolkata is extremely rich and diverse in wildlife. The delta has already begun to flood. Once it is submerged, the animals and humans who have managed to survive will claw their way north toward drier lands in search of shelter and food. This is something that caught our attention. The residents of the Sundarbans delta would practically move to the city. The royal bengal tigers, being a huge part of the ecosystem, will too. This is what we tapped into and built our universe around. 

Q. I saw you won top honors at the Annecy Festival in France. Any other awards I should mention for the piece? 

A. Apart from the Annecy award we have also won Best Art Direction at Animayo, Gran Canaria; audience awards for best Short film at Brooklyn Film Festival; and best short film at Short Stop International Film Festival.

Q. What do you believe is the potential for animation to help get messages like the climate threat across?

A. Animation as a medium is extremely flexible and we love it. Having trained in the art of animation we hold this medium close to our hearts and we feel it is meant not only for children but all kinds of audiences. We’d like our film to be watched by as many people as possible across the globe and understand that this issue will affect them all sooner or later. Climate change will not distinguish between rich or poor. 

Q. Describe for my readers who are in the U.S. or Europe the potential climate threat in India, in terms of rising waters but also climate refugees? 

A. Climate change and rising water level are very directly related, may it be in India or any other country for that matter. In India, the rise is temperature and water levels have already started to affect the coastal cities. Sudden storms and cyclones have become very common. This has lead to destruction at a scale we cannot fathom. Cities and villages lay destroyed. Human life has been compromised. As a developing nation, India does not have an infrastructure to deal with a such a vast amount of change — socially, environmentally. It is in fact due to the carbon emissions of various other countries that the the underprivileged are suffering the most. We urge all the audiences and governments to take some real steps and minimize and eventually reverse this threat to human and animal kind — climate change.