Delivering hope from eco-anxiety through extinction stories

Lolo's Travels

A powerful short film from the University of Adelaide will ease young peoples’ eco-anxiety in a most unusual way – through exploration of the tragic extinction stories of the Australian Tasmanian tiger and Japanese Hokkaido wolf.

Created in collaboration with Tottori Prefectural Museum in Japan and funded by the Australia-Japan Foundation (DFAT), the short film with a strong environmental message will premiere during a special free public event at the University of Adelaide on 6 October.

Associate Professor Shoko Yoneyama is a sociologist and Japan specialist at the University of Adelaide. She leads the research team presenting the short film: Tasmanian Tiger Meets Hokkaido Wolf: Australia and Japan beyond Eco-anxiety.

“Our project is about extinction, but it’s also about hope,” said Associate Professor Yoneyama, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Social Sciences.

“The Tasmanian tiger and Hokkaido wolf went extinct in very similar ways, because of the targeted eradication efforts of humans in both Australia and Japan. The stories of these two species, which we explore in our film, are incredibly relevant to us today because we need to learn from this history.

“Through our short video, our team really want to do more than just repeat tragic stories. We want to inspire young people and ease eco-anxiety.”

"Our project is about extinction, but it’s also about hope."Associate Professor Shoko Yoneyama, School of Social Sciences, University of Adelaide

Associate Professor Yoneyama collaborated with a multi-disciplinary project team from Japan and Australia on how extinction stories might help young people re-imagine the human-nature relationship for a more sustainable future.

The team explored the history of the thylacine, which is believed to have become extinct sometime in the first half of the 1900s. They also researched the links between this story and that of the Hokkaido wolf, also known as the Ezo Wolf in Japan, which lived in the Northern Island of Hokkaido and went extinct in the 1880s.

“Although the tragic history of the Hokkaido Wolf is little known, even in Japan, there has been one very powerful story written about them, though it has never before been available in English,” said Associate Professor Yoneyama.

Lolo’s Travels, a manga (or Japanese style comic), was written by Tezuka Osamu, the creator of world-famous characters Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. 

The manga is set in Japan in the 1970s, about 100 years after the Hokkaido Wolf is believed to have gone extinct. It is a tale of the last three Hokkaido wolf cubs, who survive in the wilderness and the special bond forged between one cub and a young man. 

“In partnership with Tezuka Productions in Tokyo, we translated and digitised this manga to make it available to English audiences for the very first time in the world. It will be debuted alongside our short film,” said Associate Professor Yoneyama.

“It’s true that the story of Lolo, the Hokkaido Wolf, is not a happy story. It’s a very sad story. A tragedy. But it’s an important story to tell, because of the underlying message the creator Tezuka wanted to pass on.

“Tezuka wanted to say that the value of life is the same, whether you happen to be a human, a cat, or a mosquito.

“Like Tezuka, I believe that if we think of these stories of extinction as more than just tragedies, they can have a powerful positive legacy to go beyond eco-anxiety and help us imagine better human-nature relationships for a more sustainable future.”

When:  Friday, 6 October 2023. 2:30pm - 4pm.

Where: Florey Lecture Theatre, Room 103, Helen Mayo North Building, Frome Road, the University of Adelaide.

Register: Click here to register for free.

Project webpage: Click here for details on the Research Team.

Tagged in featured story, anthropology