Back in the 1970s, ‘climate change’ was only just becoming a serious point of conversation. In fact, the term itself wasn’t even officially mentioned until five years later in 1975. It was an issue quickly building significance, with very little public interest or realisation; which makes Kodak’s 1970 educational film All The Difference somewhat of a pioneer of the conversation.
Capturing the vast beauty of the American country to a bouncy orchestral score and the musings of poets Walt Whitman and Robert Frost, we take a tour through the winding roads and across plains of wild green. This is juxtaposed with the redundant, satirical conversations of comedians, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, discussing the importance of water and the deafening horns of the city to a nightmarish backwards soundtrack. We witness the industrialisation of the city and the deterioration of the nature on which it borders, the sentiment of the film is overt, but this is no bad thing.
The reality that the film nicely conveys is that our environment is deteriorating much like the VHS quality of the video’s rip—even though this is unintentional, it certainly adds to the film’s aurora. Conversation into the topic is treated as trivial and even comedic, contrasting with the luscious language people often use to describe the great countryside we are supposedly passionate to protect. Nichols and May discuss with a dry bluntness:
“Water, what would we do without it”
“I don’t know, the price of water sure has gone up though”
“It’s one of the essentials”
“I can’t imagine not having water though”
“No, me neither
“Water’s really important when you think about it.”
These satirical conversations, like the one outlined above, mock the emptiness of contemporary thinking, producing no answers, or solutions, just futile thinking. For viewing during the current coronavirus pandemic, this film radiates a longing yearn for the outdoors, but with a haunting sting, especially considering that in the 50 years since the film’s release, climate change has only become more urgent. From Diane D.Worden, who spoke of the film in her essay ‘Enviro-films’ back in 1973: “Whether or not acceptance of increasing air and water pollution becomes so thoroughly a part of our way of life in the future depends on which road America takes now — the common path or the one less travelled by; that will make all the difference.”