Very Best Combination of Brains, Images, and Words, April 20, 2008
Unlike National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World and National Geographic: Human Footprint, both of which I recommend, this DVD is a very elegant narrative that blends top ecological activists including Stephen Hawking and Paul Hawkins, speaking for a minute or two each, with historical audio-visuals that have been selected with enormous intelligence and integrity.
If you buy only one film, this is the one, but the issue is so very important I would recommend that each of three families buy one of these, and then start passing them around the neighborhood.
The movie opens with a theme of the planet being sick–two complex systems, one human, one all else, are interacting in pathological ways. Man, in being able to think about the future, while also ignoring the limits to growth and maintaining the fiction of being separate from nature, is committing species suicide.
Mankind used to live on current sunlight, which can only sustain up to one billion people. It was the industrial and agricultural era that began to draw down on “stored sunlight” in the form of petroleum and natural gas that set off a race to grow that led to climate change and especially global warming. 20% of the polar ice is gone; catastrophic weather is 50% more often or 50% more powerful. The amplification effect of human misbehavior is creating more and more loss. See The Manufacture of Evil: Ethics, Evolution and the Industrial System; To Govern Evolution: Further Adventures of the Political Animal; and Voltaire’s Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West
I have a note to myself, this is stark elegant poetry.
The oceans are discussed in terms of our taking out too much (e.g. over-fishing) and putting in too much (toxins and non-biodegradable matter), and at the same time, toxins get concentrated in the food chain and come right back to us. See Blue Frontier : Saving America’s Living Seas
Water that is poisoned ultimately poisons the human species. See
The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink
Toward the end we get to the cruz of the matter, that corporate greed and control has gone global, and the legal systems, the political systems, are hostage to that greed. The Earth–nature–has been commoditized, as have humans (never mind the corruption that allows corporations to loot foreign commonwealths at the same time that Exxon externalizes $12 in “true costs” to future generations for each gallon of gas it sells).
One speaker is very capable in pointing out that this is neither a technology crisis nor even an ecological crisis, but rather a crisis of political policy and a process that has broken down completely. The government “bridge” between the commonwealth and the people, and the economy, has falled down. In the next sentence the problem is defined as our CULTURE, with everything else being a symptom. This was for me a defining moment within this DVD. It’s not about evil–Exxon does what we let them–it’s about what we choose to do or not do as a culture.
Probably citing E. O. Wilson, but without reference to him (he should have appeared in this movie, see his book The Future of Life, one speaker notes that the value of what nature does for us (e.g. bee pollination of crops) has been estimated at 35 trillion dollars a year–vastly more than the 18 trillion that comprises the global economy.
The DVD concludes with an excellent combination of individual statements on how this IS the ecological era, we can reimagine our lives, if we just retrofit all buildings to make them energy efficient it would create 3 million jobs in the US and free us from dependence on foreign oil. We can live with one tenth of the resources we consume now.
[Coincidentally, this was the week that TIME Magazine went green, and while I was watching the movie I was also finishing up Jesse Ventur’s book Don’t Start the Revolution Without Me! in which he recounts his realization that simply unplugging all the TVs in America when not in use would end US energy shortages.]
Di Caprio closes, and I write in my notes: eloquent, inspriing, statesmanlike, learned. He–and all those associated with this project–have it it out of the park. This is a deeply impressive contribution to the public dialog on our future as a species and as a planet.
See also my varied lists. There are a number of books in the cradle to cradle, sustainable design, green to gold, natural capitalism genre, the one that captures the spirit of this DVD and complements it is, in my view, Paul Hawkin’s Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beau, which he describes as the Earth’s immune system kicking in.