How Studio Ghibli films can help us rediscover the childlike wonder of our connection with nature | Aeon

Studio Ghibli films are replete with artistry depicting different aspects of nature. Kyle Duhamel/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Films like Princess Mononoke, My Neighbour Totoro and Nausicaä created by Hayao Miyazaki explore the perils of neglecting nature.

Films with powerful environmentally centred narratives can transform our thinking and connect us with nature in ways that scientific papers cannot. For example, Studio Ghibli, a renowned Japanese film studio co-founded by animator Hayao Miyazaki, creates complex visual stories about human-nature relationships that transcend barriers of culture or age. A key message of Miyazaki’s work is that we must respect nature – or face our own destruction.

Miyazaki’s films offer viewers moments of escape into fantastical worlds that nonetheless echo problems of modernity, demonstrating that it’s possible to portray complex environmental issues through animation in a way that retains mainstream appeal.

As a conservation scientist and Studio Ghibli enthusiast, I’ve analysed the environmental themes in three of its most well-known films: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Princess Mononoke (1997).


Nausicaä, released with a special recommendation from the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, tells the story of an apocalyptic event that wreaks havoc on global ecosystems. Surviving humans must coexist alongside the Toxic Jungle, a dangerous landscape filled with poisonous fungal spores. Most humans fear the Toxic Jungle and seek to destroy it. But what they don’t understand is that it’s cleansing the environment for their benefit.

Miyazaki designed the film to mirror our society, where prioritising short-term materialistic growth over long-term environmental sustainability is predicted to lead to collapse. The film reminds us that being at war with nature ultimately ends in our demise. To create a sustainable future, we must work with nature rather than against it. […]

Lecturer in Environmental Management, University of Reading

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About agogo22

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