Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘activism’

22 APRIL, 2009

Earth Day The Reel Way

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Just how stupid we really are, or what James Earl Jones and a giant humpback whale have in common.

It’s Earth Day, and instead of engaging in questionable eco initiatives, like watching Philly’s fountains turn green, why not call a few friends over for some essential viewing that will disturb, move, outrage and inspire you in that bitter-sweet way that An Inconvenient Truth did in 2006.

Here’s some help, with our selection of 5 new must-see films that explore our environmental sensibility.

THE COVE

2009 Sundance Audience Award Winner The Cove is a mixture of action, adventure, mystery and, as the tagline goes, “oh, and it’s a documentary”. The movie tells the story of a group of filmmakers, activists and free-divers, led by director Louie Psihoyos, who penetrate a hidden cove in Japan uncovering a terrible secret.

No spoilers here  — you’ll only know the secret after seeing the movie, but let’s just say that given the filmmakers are wanted by the Japanese authorities,  it’s going to be be good.

THE AGE OF STUPID

Director Franny Armstrong takes the scare approach to instill in us some eco sensibility. Half-fiction, half-documentary, The Age of Stupid shows Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite living alone on a devastated Earth in 2055. In this barren habitat, the only type of entertainment available to the poor guy is “old” documentary footage of us trashing the planet in the present day.

Troubled by questions like why we didn’t stop climate change when we had the chance, Pete suggests that the answer might simply be that we were really, really stupid. And he may have a point.

FUEL

Fuel is last year’s Sundance Best Documentary Award Winner, and covers a topic painfully familiar by now — America’s addiction to oil.

Director Josh Tickell drills the history behind the rising domination of the petrochemical industry — which may seem like a regurgitated discussion to some, but we believe these things simply need to be said until there is no longer a need for them to be.

Plus, there’s a cameo by one of our heroes — Sir Richard Branson — as well as other fascinating instigators like Josh Tickell himself and Robert Kennedy Jr.

EARTH

Sure, it may be unoriginally titled. But earth, out in the U.S. today, is a piece of remarkable visual storytelling about three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home.

The film comes from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, the acclaimed creative team behind the Emmy-Award-winning Planet Earth. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s narrated by the one and only James Earl Jones.

It’s a story told through incredible action taking place on unimaginable scale at impossible locations. Full of mystery and intimacy and magic as we glimpse inside the worlds of our planet’s most elusive creatures, the film is an epic call for appreciation of the fragile world we inhabit, a moving plea for a new self-conception as actors in an intricate and brilliantly orchestrated system beyond our own existence.

You can catch the filmmakers hosting a special episode over at Current for a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at their phenomenal adventure and creative process.

FOOD, INC.

By now, you know we’re big proponents of sustainable agriculture and permaculture. So it comes as no surprise that we find Robert Kenner‘s FOOD, INC. to be a compelling must-see. A merciless exposé on America’s food industry, it reveals all the hidden workings and often shocking truths of the government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA, lurking behind the consumer’s scope of vision.

The film features social entrepreneurs and sustainability visionaries like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma), Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface FarmsJoel Salatin, who together paint a grim picture of what we eat and how it ended up on our plates, brimming with an urgency to change what we eat in order to change where we end up.

For 13 more Earth-conscious must-sees, we highly recommend the selections in Yale’s Environmental Film Festival, as well as the two incredible forthcoming films presented at this year’s TED Conference and TEDPrize winner Sylvia Earle’s compelling talk on why blue is the real green.

27 MARCH, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

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The only election that matters, or what Linkin Park have to do with the UN Secretary General and your Saturday night.

Today’s edition is really a call to action, one very simple yet very important action — switching off your lights for an hour tomorrow night. Because tomorrow, March 28, between 8:30PM and 9:30PM local time (whatever your locale), is Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is a global sustainability movement ignited by WWF. It began two years ago in Sydney, when 2.2 million homes and offices switched off their lights for one hour in an effort to raise awareness about the urgency of changing our daily habits in order to combat climate change. By 2008, 50 million people had joined the movement. Iconic landmarks like the San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House, and the Coca Cola billboard in Times Square all stood in darkness.

This year, Earth Hour stands for something much bigger — a global vote for change, aiming to draw 1 billion people into the voting booth that is the light switch. Although this is political, it’s not about national politics — it’s about planetary politics.

The propaganda materials for this year’s event were designed by none other than Shepard Fairey, whom it’s no secret we respect on more levels than we can count.

The effort, dubbed VOTE EARTH, is a global call to action for everyone — every office, every housewife, every partygoer and bookworm and sheep herder. Over 74 countries and territories have pledged their support to VOTE EARTH, with anyone from the UN Secretary General to Edward Norton to Linkin Park endorsing the effort and urging us to join in.

So here’s what to do:

  • Sign up — commit to make your planetary vote count.
  • Tell your friends — darkness is always more fun in company.
  • Make an event of it and, really, have some fun with it — take photos, make a video, follow Earth Hour on Twitter and tag any of your related tweets with #earthhour or #voteearth and your #location.

That’s it, it’s that simple. So, um, just do it, willl ya? We ceartainly will.

25 FEBRUARY, 2009

GOOD Magazine: The Real Stimulus Package

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How the best magazine around got better, or why taking a slight financial hit can get you an intellectual grand slam.

We love GOOD Magazine. Always have (well, at least since their launch party in Philly’s Reading Terminal in 2007), always will. And now we have yet another reason to.

goodsub Initially, an annual subscription to GOOD used to cost $20, all of which went to your choice of charity from their list of nonprofit partners — great already. (Ours went to WWF.) But imagine our delight to discover that GOOD is now pushing the innovation front with a pay-what-you-want model – you can subscribe for anything from $1 to $1,000, all of which still goes to a charity of your choice.

Your choice of subscription also gets you various tiers of perks: Anything over $20 gets free admission to Choose GOOD parties (and good they are, take our work for it), $10o or more gets your name immortalized in the magazine, and if you have the good will and appropriate pocket depth to afford the $1,000 subscription, we’re talking lifetime subscription to the magazine, lifetime free admission to Choose GOOD parties, your name printed in the magazine, and a signed, limited edition bound copy of GOOD.

Genius.

We’ve seen this sort of approach in the music industry, with acts big and small, from Radiohead to Jill Sobule, redefining the traditional business model. But we’re all the more excited to see it in print publishing, an industry struggling to stay afloat in the digital ocean of content.

More importantly, it’s a particularly good metaphor for the broader concepts GOOD stands for: Cultural contribution. Empowerment. Freedom of choice.

choosegood We can’t recommend GOOD enough — they go so far beyond “good enough” in every respect, from the compelling content, to the fantstic design and art direction, to their sustainable choice of paper stock. So go ahead and get your subscription to GOOD — it’s a solid investment, in both your personal growth and in your contribution to causes larger than yourself.