Leonardo DiCaprio's new film, The 11th Hour is a valiant first crack at popularizing the facts about the whole "earth crisis". It's a good start on a very tough task, and there's a great interactive, info-packed website, http://www.the11thhouraction.com too. The film's hybrid genre, "disaster movie + expert testimony" makes sense for a first step. But it also set me thinking about sequels. What kind of follow up film do we need to reach all the people in the malls and the corporate or congressional halls?
My first thought was that since we've had the "crisis" movie, the next one should be the "opportunity" film. It's true that some new possibilities were described in the 11th Hour, but the main emphasis was on the wake up call. But there is a lot of evidence that the public already knows we're in deep trouble on this planet. Hope and belief that it's possible to stave off disaster is the thing in shortest supply.
So my sequel idea might reach an even bigger mainstream audience. For the broadest possible appeal, we need a sequel that tells the story of a big dream come true-how America went green and saved the world. (This is the kind of storytelling Tom Atlee calls "Imagineering. See: http://storyfieldconference.com/Imagineering.html and http://storyfieldconference.com/SFC-Atlee-Storycology.html.) This sequel idea I'm dreaming of would use every modern cinematic trick in the digital bag to show how it would feel to actually live in such a world. Maybe it should have some characters who time-travel to that future world from a declining world like ours. The time travelers should have some mentors in the new world, the real "Second Life" we all are going to need. And this film I'm dreaming about should do some flashbacks, as the mentors tell exactly how the world got from the time travelers' sad present to the mentors' hopeful future.
A lot of the raw material for the narrative and visual details of this story--dying planet today, green planet tomorrow--are already there in what The 11th Hour experts said about what would help. The missing piece of my dream film script is the story of how we got from our world to a better future. I'd have Green world mentors tell our time-travelers about the way consumer choice, citizen action, and corporate reform turned looming disaster into victory. Some nice flashbacks of this kind of action would help to make it real.
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And the fact is that the "change story" IS already starting to unfold. Right now we're seeing a cascade of new attention paid to the rock bottom "earth crisis" problem: the global corporatocracy's spiritual stranglehold on our efforts to save ourselves. Robert Reich's new book, Supercapitalism, (http://www.robertreich.org/reich/books.asp), is just the latest to lay out new details of how the supercapitalism vs democracy bind works today; he suggests some powerful solutions. (For more on this topic, see Naomi Klein's newest, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Chalmers Johnson's latest, Nemesis, John Perkins' recent Secret History of the American Empire, and Peter Barnes' clearsighted Capitalism 3.0).
People aren't just reading about the supercapitalism problem either. The Fall 2007 issue of YES! (see http://www.yesmagazine.org) is devoted to the wide range of organizing tactics and approaches people everywhere are using now; there's even a report about a very promising new joint effort, The Strategic Corporate Initiative, http://corporateethics.org/article.php?list=type&type=17 ). The leaders of many of our own states are riding to the rescue too, way ahead of Washington in standing up to corporate foot dragging and political hamstringing on green issues. And, according to the New York Times (Sunday Sept. 16, 2007, "In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulation"), American industries are even beginning to beg for some regulation themselves.
It all sounds like good film script material to me! And it's an American "can do" story too.
Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the founder and executive director of The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org; since 1997, the Project has been teaching progressive activists how to mainstream their messages by framing them as part of the best American story.