Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The 11th Hour's Call to Action

Leonardo diCaprio’s much anticipated film, the 11th Hour, opened this past weekend. diCaprio produced and narrates this urgent call to action to mitigate global warming.

Inspired by Godrey Reggio’s film Koyaanisqatsi, the Hopi Indian word for ‘life out of balance’, which visually examines our disconnection with nature, the 11th Hour opens with a visual assault. Raging fires and floods, dispossessed people, animals in distress, glaciers breaking apart unfold clip after clip. Unlike Koyaanisqatsi, the diCaprio’s film is not wordless. Scientists, thinkers and activists such as David Suzuki, Wangari Maathai, Ray Anderson, Stephen Hawking, Mikhail Gorbachev, Oren Lyons and Bill McKibben explain just what’s happening and where it will lead if we don’t take drastic action now.

They make it very clear that while the biosphere is on the verge of collapse, planet earth will likely recover. Human beings, along with millions of species that co-habit this beautiful world, will not.

So who are the culprits? While the film, directed by newcomers Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners, wags its finger at governments for cozying up to big business, it also looks at our history to find out how we got to this terrifying place and why we continue to perpetuate it. The film walks us through agricultural practices that have depleted forests and soil for thousands of years and the grand daddy – oil. This cheap and powerful energy source has not only released stores of carbon from buried ancient forests, it is responsible for the unprecedented increase in the human population thanks to wide-scale prosperity. According to the film, our species’ population has doubled since the time JFK was in office – not even fifty years ago. Add to the fact that we are insatiable consumers, and put the economy before ecology and us above nature, the challenge to avert ecological meltdown is formidable.

Depressed yet? The film packs a wallop. Just when you think the situation is hopeless, the film holds out an olive branch. Designers such as William McDonough and Canada’s Bruce Mau shed light on exciting possibilities for a carbon-free future that can roll out now. This depends on one thing. Political will. The film reminds us that in 1942, Roosevelt got America’s war machine up and running in half a year, no easy feet, becoming a critical force in a fight on two fronts on opposite sides of the world.

A carbon-free future that can be realized in our lifetime also depends on you and me.

The film provides a reminder reminiscent of Hal’s St. Crispen's Day Speech to his frightened army in Shakespeare’s Henry V. He tells them what lucky sods they are to be at Agincourt, despite being heavily outnumbered by the French. He tells them that future generations will envy them for fighting England’s greatest battle. It’s quite a sales pitch. The same pitch can be made to us.

You lucky lucky people. The chips are down, yes, but we are the generation that is destined to overcome the greatest challenge ever to face humanity. Our descendents will look to us with envy. If only I lived during those times, they will say. If only I made such a difference.

Make a difference. See the film. Bring your friends. It’s important. Step up your efforts to reduce your climate footprint. Contact your local representatives. Tell them how you feel. Our date with a collapsing biosphere must be avoided. It now rests in our hands. We’re it.

In the News

The Age of Cheap Oil is Ending – by Thomas Homer-Dixon
This piece appeared in the Globe & Mail on Aug 6. The US National Petroleum Council, not one to cry wolf when it come to oil, is starting to come to terms with reality. Depleting reserves and the insatiable demand from Asia are not happy bedfellows. Will the 2020s be the dirty 20s?

Wheat prices reach record level
Hot dry weather affects a critical crop.

Sun set to shine on solar by Tyler Hamilton
What a venture capitalist has to say about renewable power.

India’s Supermarket Boom
George Monbiot argues that the West needs to rethink the supermarket to drastically cut greenhouse gases. But what if countries like India and China develop a taste for brightly lit and air conditioned stores? What if Walmart gets in there? It’s already starting to happen.

Other News

BBC – The Greenroom

Ecoshock Radio

Green Bloggers

Grist Magazine


My Green Element

New York Times – Environment

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

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