The 11th Hour: Something To Talk About
I just got back from a conversation after a sold-out screening of our film at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood. It's 11p.m. A Wednesday. Amazing. People came out to see the film and it was a packed house, as I mentioned. They applauded the film -- which always brings tears to my eyes. This is a public audience that is applauding a film in a theater. Something is working. I went up with Andy Lipkis from Tree People and Brian Gerber, one of our producers, for the Q&A. The entire audience stayed. They listened, they talked, asked questions. Again, a Wednesday night -- a school night, a work night. But the conversation seemed more important than getting up early. In all my work in media, writing, filmmaking, and politics, there is nothing so heartening as an inspired conversation among strangers. I would say we all left that room now as a community because we shared the film first, then the ideas and the feelings it provoked.
The intention behind this film was to be a massive conversation starter that would lead to action on a broad societal level. I know it is a lofty goal, but as artists and humans we aim high so that we can at least land somewhere beyond our own original horizon line. You can only see so far -- it becomes the view points of others that take us further, and if tonight is any indication of meeting the goals of this film, it is working.
I think back now to December of 2006 when we were deep in the editing process of this film. We had 150 hours of interviews to go through and bring down to this 90 minutes that we are presenting the world -- a distillation of the genius and passion of the work of the individuals we interviewed. This is their movie, at the end of the day -- a testament to the world they have been studying, watching, writing about, campaigning about as they see ecosystems spiraling downwards while the mainstream political and media dialogue remains defiant of the truth on the ground. This is our giant message in a bottle to the world beyond the veil of spin and denial. We are trying to break through the white noise of short-sighted debates over indisputable facts, through the mental pollution of irrelevant news stories about jailed heiress picked over with tremendous detail while our life support systems on this planet are being pillaged for short term profit and political power.
So back to the edit bay and the slow-moving process of finding the essence of this film -- figuring out how to capture a snapshot of the world we are living in -- all the destruction and simultaneously all the hope. Some days it felt like we were trying to run though molasses, a frustrated hurry to get this movie out there while our culture continued to hurtle towards a precipice. Would we get this out there in time to make a difference? Then there was the flip side. I thought about all this work we were doing in the dark edit bay and imagined the summer of 2007. I had visions of a new cultural movement that would be underway -- something to rival the civil rights movement but this time it would be a convergence of ideas that would make people hit the streets in outrage and inspiration. Forty years after the Summer of Love it seemed like as a country we were primed for the next great defining movement of a generation. I thought maybe we would be too late on that level. That this film would be an afterthought, because by the time it came out the good news would be that the citizens of this country and the world would be already uniting around an understanding of our problems and mobilizing for massive solutions.
Now it is almost the end of the summer of 2007 and I don't have to tell you that the transformative visible outcry isn't happening on the scale I imagined. We seem to be in a very similar place to when we began the process of making this film. Certainly the idea of global warming has become more accepted in this country than it was a year ago thanks to An Inconvenient Truth but again where is the next level to this movement. What is that gap between knowledge and change? What is it about this problem of the collapse of our environment at our own hands that seems so difficult to address on a political level? What is that space between awareness and action?
I begin now to think more about pausing in this moment of awareness, about how important it is to go deep into ourselves before actions are taken. Of course we can all do the '10 things' to help lessen our impact on the planet from changing our light bulbs to recycling, etc. and I will not diminish the importance of this sort of individual action, but this problem we face will not be solved by such a small to do list. It will only begin to become clear to us -- the view of this new horizon -- if we truly see the world in a new way.
Pausing then, and allowing the enormity of this event of the tail end of the industrial revolution is paramount. Because in this acknowledgment comes a subtle but primary shift in consciousness where you will never look at the world the same way again. Where you will never look at the things in your home that you have acquired, through a breakneck life of work and struggle, in the same way again. Where did that wood in your coffee table come from? What about that plastic water bottle? The heretofore hidden consequences of our consumption are slowly being revealed. But before you feel the need to shut down because of the inertia associated with such an incredible call for change or before you decide to run for the hills and live on nuts and berries, there is another way. If we can revel in this new consciousness for a moment new ideas will spring forth and that is the conversation we need to be having. It is armed with these ideas that we must hit the streets and protest for a world we want to see built rather than protest against an ideology that we now understand is treating this planet as a disposable resource.
Someone came up to me tonight and mentioned he thought the gap between doing something about all these problems and inaction has to do with the fact that we are emotionally unprepared to take on the challenges left to us. I believe personally that evolving an eco-psychology is as important as evolving literal action. Without a real foundation of what to do with our outrage, fear, and revelation we will be lost. This is where I think the environmental movement is about to cross over and build bridges with a lot of other existing movements on the planet because ultimately we are looking at power -- who has it and what they are doing with it. Other movements from the anti-poverty campaigns to health care to anti-war to you name it are all about making those in power accountable for their actions. Here we are united. How do we take back our power from those people and corporations that have abused the public trust and damaged the commons? How do we become citizens again after a half-century campaign of drilling into the American conscience that we are consumers? Of being told that our strength as Americans lays in our economic might so much so that we have spent ourselves into an untenable position of personal and national debt?
I am going to sign off for now with this last question on the heels of all these other observations. I look forward to your responses. I am filled with hope and optimism because I have seen the capacity of human beings to reinvent their world, tackle seemingly insurmountable problems, and move forward. Would anyone of African-American descent living 60 years ago imagine that we could look back from this vantage point with utter wonder at how we ever allowed people to be treated that way? We changed. Would anyone living behind the Iron Curtain in the early days of the 90s imagine that there would be no more Wall? That their countries would join the European Union? It happened faster than they thought -- in their lifetimes. So I think we can do it. We have changed before and we will change again.
It seems to be a matter of truly recognizing where we are in order to begin the task over moving into a post Industrial world. An new ideology that takes all the benefits of technology and innovation from the Industrial Revolution while dispensing of the idea of short term gain at the price of nature, humans, community and the survivability of future generations.
Nadia Conners is a writer, director and producer of both narrative and documentary films. She is a Founder and Creative Director of Tree Media Group. Conners is a director and writer on "The 11th Hour," as well as the director and writer of the two shorts, "Global Warning" and "Water Planet" (also with DiCaprio).
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