Poetic musings on life during pandemic
Between 2009 and 2015, FES/DIGHR postdoctoral fellow, Mark Terry, produced feature films for the United Nations (UN) reporting on the climate research in the polar regions: The Antarctica Challenge: A Global Warning and The Polar Explorer, both films back-to-back winners of the Audience Choice Award at the American Conservation Film Festival. The films broke new ground for the UN as they were used as data delivery systems for policy creation sessions. Terry was decorated by Queen Elizabeth II with her Diamond Jubilee Medal and was named to the College of Fellows of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society for this specific achievement.
Following the successful presentations of these films at the UN’s climate summits in Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010), Terry was recruited to produce a series of films giving voice to the global community of youth at these annual conferences. This project – the Youth Climate Report – evolved with his graduate studies eventually resulting in a new form of documentary film he calls the “Geo-Doc”. Upon defending his dissertation in 2019, Palgrave Macmillan published his monograph The Geo-Doc: Geomedia, Documentary Film, and Social Change.
York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research joined forces to support Terry’s continuing research in this field with a postdoctoral fellowship. In the past year, Terry participated in FES’ Ecological Footprint Initiative and DIGHR’s Planetary Health Film Lab, earning two SSHRC grants during this fellowship. Also engaged as a contract faculty, he created a successful first-year undergrad course called ENVS 1010: Introduction to Environmental Documentaries. The course combines experiential education components with additional education modules specifically for international students, designed in collaboration with the York University English Language Institute (YUELI). Terry’s creative course design and dedicated approach to teaching earned him the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. York University extended this recognition by awarding him an Academic Innovation Fund to further develop the pedagogy of this unique course.
During the pandemic, Terry was able to write and publish another book, this one an anthology of poetry titled Pandemic Poetry, a collection of verses representing his reflections and observations during four months of solitary isolation. As Black Lives Matter protests spread across the world and global economies collapse, dark days ahead seem to be upon us. The book acknowledges these tragic events set against the ominous and omnipresent coronavirus, but also brings to light the hope and joy these unusual times have fostered — the courage of health care workers; the generosity of the humanitarian; the kindness of strangers; the love of friends and family, all contribute to reveal shining lights amidst the darkness of a relentless plague.
Using his various skills as an academic, a filmmaker, and a journalist, Terry documents what many of us are feeling during this pandemic and provides hope where many believe there is none. Merging text with graphic images reflects, underscores, and expresses the tone and message of each poem. Terry’s academic research reflects this artistic architecture — to combine words and images to form a dynamic communicative language that offers not only intellectual insights, but emotional engagement as well.
Terry has not completely abandoned his filmmaking vocation through all this. He is currently in post-production finishing his third installment in his trilogy of polar documentaries, The Changing Face of Iceland, made in conjunction with students from York slated for release in 2021. He continues his research into environmental science and policy as the Chair of the Advanced Emergency and Rapid Response Simulation Arctic Group and as an Associate to the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education toward Sustainability.
Mark Terry, PhD, specializes in research and teaching in the field of digital media communications aimed at bridging the gap between environmental science and environmental policy. His previous work in documentary film work has been recognized by the Academy of Canadian Film and Television with their rarely-presented Humanitarian Award and The Explorers Club has decorated him with their highest honour, the Stefansson Medal, for his work in the polar regions.