It could have been is a video essay; an associative collection of ideas, diary notes and dreamy images combining environmental issues and politics of recent years. The rat, an animal that is controversial, hated, feared and scientifically-used, is in the spotlight. Grönlund became interested in rats after reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, a book in which author Elizabeth Kolbert explores human influence on the climate and environment. Over the history of the planet, there have been five major mass extinctions where the biodiversity was suddenly decimated. We are currently in the midst of the sixth mass extinction: the largest since the event that killed the dinosaurs. Throughout history rats have proven to be an effective colonizer, flourishing in each new environment they find and destroying endemic species populations while propagating at rapid rates.
Today corruption and imbalance of power across the globe are painfully obvious dilemmas, yet peace agreements, equality and climate change solutions still seem unreachable. Inspired by rats’ talent for survival and their similarities to humans, It could have been explores the dark fantasy of rats inheriting the earth from humans. Grönlund has spent time observing rats’ behavior, witnessing for herself the adaptability, empathy and intelligence that researchers have shown them to possess. She explores ideas about how to transfer knowledge to another species, reading from her favorite authors to the rats in an effort to make the information immortal. It could have been connects humanity to the natural world, intertwining our future and current events to other possibilities. Linking an alternate history–or prediction of the future–to a feeling of powerlessness, It could have been questions if there is still time and ways to create something alternative, something entirely new, to replace our violent man-made systems that destroy both biodiversity and humanity.