The Insect World Versus Biophobia; How Animation Can Encourage Biophilia In The Wake Of Insect Extinction

 'People need insects to survive, but insects do not need us'

E.O Wilson

Humanity's orientation of the world has resulted in the emergence of the Anthropocene extinction, the sixth mass extinction on earth, a human-caused  crisis. With we see our biodiversity in a state of severe decline. Amongst this we see one of the most concerning losses. Those we endure within our daily lives, the pests that invade our homes and the ones that threaten our sense of safety with their otherworldly micro scale, the insects. Collective studies have revealed that 40% of insect species are threatened with extinction, and a third are endangered. 


Research motivation showcase

Animation practice in progress

 'The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a spiritual and cultural transformation, and we scientists don't know how to do that.'

Gus Speth

Insects form the literal groundwork to all life on the planet. They are the beating heart of our existence. Without humankind the world would ‘regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years or so ago’ yet without insects the ‘environment would soon collapse to chaos’ (Wilson, 2006). Despite the important role insects play within our ecosystems they are one of the most loathed species on earth. With increasing urbanisation and industrial agriculture the distance between us and our insect ancestors has never been greater. Our scientific technologies and evolutions can no longer keep up with our rate of destruction, nor can it account for the emotional disconnect at the core of our crisis. Science lacks the necessary emotional linguistics to recalibrate our natural world perceptions

 ' animation is able to bring to life and illustrate the unearthly, the internal, the otherworldly and the hidden aspects of our lived experiences’

Kelly Gallagher

Its at the intersection of art and science that we may find a planetary ark. This research seeks to connect what we know and how we feel about insects probing at our emotions via contextual and practical research. The model for human emotions will follow the established theory of both Biophilia (an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world.) and biophobia (an innate fear, distrust and sometimes disgust of the natural world) investigating how either can be effectively elicited through the medium of animation. Animation's ability to combine the creative forces, expand beyond the restrictions of reality and ‘bring to life and illustrate the unearthly, the internal, the otherworldly’ (Gallagher, 2016) makes it a curious and valid form to study within this criteria. Its animations ability to delve into the ‘internal’ that make it ideal to explore emotional and biophilic stimulus within the construct of insect activism and conservation. 


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Visual depiction of research method

 'We impose a social structure of our own invention onto an alien society'

Deborah Gordon

The intent is to identify the process of images, languages, tropes, audiences and discourse within insect cinema, The various pressures that surround insect decline and our human-insect relationship to then identify the possible response and answers through animated practice research. The cinematic evaluation will draw influence from literary theory and film studies, whilst biophilia-biophobia will borrow from sociobiology and conservation ethics. My practical assessment will be influenced by both of these evaluations and take form as a series of animated explorations rearranging and deconstructing them to gain insight to their biophilic value.

Research Blog (click to open)

 'the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have for destruction'

Rachel Carson

If we can understand how to reconstruct and reframe insect biophobia and biophilia through animation, applying it to our wider biodiversity crisis becomes more negotiable in the human psyche. Insects pose one of the highest obstacles to surmount in regard to our biophobic interpretations and wider biodiversity crisis as they are largely disliked. This thesis will look at the creative potential to resolve biophobic responses to nature from the literal ground up, starting with the emblem of human disconnect, the insects. The value and significance of this study lies in its potential for broader application. It could provide reference and avenues of enquiry across our numerous world issues.  E.O Wilson (2006: 89) remarks that 'only nature can serve as the planetary ark.'  However, nature requires the necessary space to build this metaphorical ark. This imagined space refers to our emotional connectedness to the earth which will be investigated in the form of animated practice. This will frame animation as the imagined materials to build this ‘planetary ark’. Our perceptions of insects cannot be resolved with science, they are subjective, imaginary and emotional and ‘we need a spiritual and cultural transformation’ . This research will see the matrimony of seemingly disparate concepts and subjects. One being human and insects, the other art and science. It is at the intersection of art and science that the potential salvation for our insect population crisis could be found.


Donations to this research are welcomed and greatly appreciated. All donations will go towards production and research costs. Thankyou very much for your support!

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