Harrison Ford has called climate change the most pressing moral crisis of our time. However, climate change is connected to so many issues that it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to begin if one is to comprehend them. The following films delve into many of the components of climate change like fossil fuel extraction, international policy, global leadership, climate refugees, geopolitics, and ecology. After viewing these films, you will come away much more informed and will probably have gained perspective and insights to use in conversations with just about anyone. Experiencing the works in this series of films is like taking a class, but without the boredom.
Guardians of the Earth (directed by Filip Antoni Malinowski)
The opening shot is the Eiffel Tower at night, so we immediately get a sense of film noir or an international thriller. More ominously, we hear the voice of Donald Trump talking about terrorism being far more important than global warming. Right afterwards, a montage of individuals seemingly rebut Trump’s statement. This is the set up for a behind-the-scenes exploration of how an international UN conference on climate change can be staged to facilitate negotiations between world leaders. In a huge conference room, we see Obama walk in and Putin studying something. This film is a very rare and extended look at climate change and what governments are doing or not doing about it. The viewpoint switches from the mass gathering to a single participant, a climate change expert from Bangladesh. His country, he says, is one of the most vulnerable in the world to floods, cyclones and droughts, and climate change has been shown to contribute to severe weather. He mentions that 10,000,000 people in his country might be unable to live where they are currently located in coastal areas because of the very disruptive effects of climate change. Of course, there is much more to this very rich film. It is a privilege to watch.
Not a Very Green Revolution (directed by Chintan Gohil)
This 9-minute documentary covers a wide range of topics in a compressed viewing experience. Because of various issues, including colonialism and population growth, India has faced poverty, and at times a lack of food access for everyone. Industrialization, privatization, chemicals, and technology were seen by some as potential solutions to systemic problems. Moving away from traditional, local agricultural practices resulted in land destruction in Punjab. The new approach wasn’t ecologically sound, so natural resources were degraded and in some cases, even destroyed. Soil fertility was lost and the water table has been depleted to a very low level. The overuse of chemicals has contaminated soil and caused pollution within the food chain. Sustainable agriculture was compromised and in some areas. Were you aware there are 600 million farmers in India? If you are interested in sustainability, food systems, food security and social justice, this short film will provide perspective and much information in a quick viewing.
How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change (directed by Josh Fox)
A dancing man opens this long documentary -- it’s not your typical non-fiction film. In fact, the style is more like Michael Moore: first-person story-telling, fast cuts, artistic shots and emotional expressions. It is an invitation to place oneself in the ‘home’ of nature and to escape the madness of a world dominated by commerce and the increasing presence of technology. By using the first-person, Fox is able to drop us into some of the effects of climate change we can all relate to -- he mentions a tree in his yard which is being killed by insects. The bugs are proliferating because climate change has warmed up areas that otherwise would have had cold weather that kills them off each year.
The film then cuts to devastation caused in New York by Hurricane Sandy. If you haven’t seen images of it, you might be shocked. Aside from the destruction of homes and infrastructure, there is also the disruption of many human lives, including people of color and those of lesser means. Of course, there are interviews with experts and some scientific explanations as to why climate change is real, and its dangers. Climate change is causing rising sea levels which could displaces hundreds of millions of people living in coastal areas. If you watch this film, you may be much more informed than the typical ‘man on the street.’ Then, you will be able to make many more choices about your daily purchases and who you vote for in coming elections. The main message here is that climate change impacts all of us, and we can participate in the solutions.
Frack (directed by Grayson Cooke)
Fracking is often written about in political terms, and sometimes in emotionally charged ways. This very controversial industrial process releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change many times more than CO2. The 3-minute film, Frack, only references chemicals and landscapes. It has no characters, no dialogue and no conventional plot. Much of the imagery is abstract and dynamic. The overall effect is refreshing because there is no human drama involved. It is both an exploration and a detachment which may be bewildering, and relieving of whatever you think you “know” about fracking. Many of our life experiences are a matter of interpretation and this film’s perspective is unique.
About the author
Jake Richardson has enjoyed the outdoors and nature since he was 6-years-old in the woods of central Illinois and now lives in California not far from the John Muir house.