at an event organised by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. After the event, we retired to the bar of a rather grand London hotel, and chatted for an hour about energy, climate change, the Precautionary Principle, Transition and whether or not we are beyond talk of ’solutions’.

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An Interview with David Orr, author of ‘Down to the Wire’. Part 1-3

David Orr in London. Note highly energy wasteful chandeliers behind him (referred to in the interview)

David Orr in London. Note the offending highly energy wasteful chandeliers behind him (referred to in the interview)

David Orr was in the UK recently, and the two of us were part of a panel at an event organised by the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. After the event, we retired to the bar of a rather grand London hotel, and chatted for an hour about energy, climate change, the Precautionary Principle, Transition and whether or not we are beyond talk of ’solutions’. Part two will follow shortly.

So, how would you introduce yourself?

I’m David Orr. I teach at [Oberlin] College in Ohio and I also work as Senior Advisor to the President of the college on environmental issues generally, but specifically on the redevelopment of the town and the college to carbon neutrality, a 20,000 acre green belt and the revitalised downtown corridor.

You’ve just published a book, Down to the Wire: confronting climate collapse. Tell us about it.

Down to the Wire is an answer, in a way, to say that the issue of climate change as I read the signs, has gone well past the point of being an economic and technical issue. Although it is certainly those things, it’s now an issue of governance and of ethics. When bad times hit and the big storms and droughts happen, people aren’t going to call 1800 Wallmart, you’re going to call 911 and hope that somebody picks up the phone, and that’s government.

The markets aren’t going to save us. A lot of this talk about reforming markets is, I think, misplaced… to the degree that we only think of civil society as a market economy, and government, well we don’t do government. So it’s written partly as an antidote to the view that governance doesn’t matter. Governance matters hugely. In the book there are sections that describe what governments can do, and have been doing to us; they can wage illegal wars, bankrupt the country, they can get their own services that they provide, they can beef up military and security services. No matter where you are in London your face is always on camera, that’s government surveillance, so governments are important in this thing.

The second thing in the book – and this is a real conundrum which we faced in the President’s Climate Action Plan which we did for the Obama Administration – what do you tell the public? It’s the thing I don’t have an answer for. When I give talks about this I always mention Jack Nicholson in ‘A Few Good Men’, and that great line he has when he says “you can’t handle the truth”. TS Elliot once said that human beings can’t bear too much reality. But on the other side, there’s Winston Churchill, with bombs falling all over London, he’s not on the BBC saying “this is a great time for urban renewal, we can beat the Nazis at a profit”, it was blood, toil, tears and sweat. So how do you message this?

In the room today it was said by several people that you have to put a positive spin on this. Well, yes and no. I think you have to be truthful about what’s at stake and if I read the signs correctly, things are moving much faster, will be much bigger and will be much longer lived than we had thought. On the other hand you can’t drive people to despair, you’ve got to give people something to do which is why the Transition Movement is such a brilliant movement because with Peak Oil you can honestly say, look … this is where we’re headed, there’s a whole convergence of things, it isn’t just oil, it’s a whole convergence of the world coming undone. So at the end of the book I discuss the Oberlin project.

The third reason for the book is that although the journal I helped to start is called ‘Solutions’, I didn’t agree with that title, because in a real sense the climate issue, if the science is correct, has gone past the point of solutions as we conventionally understand that word, and what we’re hoping for now in this race against time and the remorseless working of big numbers, is to contain the worst of what could happen and hope that in a thousand, maybe two thousand years time, there’s still enough bio physical stability to support something called a civilisation. It isn’t solvable like you’d fix a broken car. The science says if we stop emitting carbon today, we’ve got at least a thousand years of sea level rise and warming temperatures. That’s the start of the book.

The book is my 35,000 word meditation on what it means to live in this era, because we’re effectively evicting ourselves from the only paradise we’ve ever known. Geologists call it the Holocene, but in that era, that interlude, the climate fluctuates a bit but never terribly badly. CO2 didn’t go above 280 – 290ppm, and you can probably extend that back about 1 million – 1.4 million years, and once you get beyond the ice core records you go to the paleo record and there’s another 600,000 years of data that say in that interlude, as humans were becoming whatever it was we’d become, we lived in this period of stability. So now, in Biblical terms, we’re evicting ourselves from this Garden of Eden called the Holocene.

At 15,000 feet for me is the President’s Climate Action Plan, we put about $1.2 million into it, we brought in around 250 people to work on all different parts of it, a who’s who of the climate group. The Oberlin Project, which is my version of Transition Town, is ground level. That’s grounding what we’re talking about. How do we build carbon neutrality with prosperity at a local level? What does that mean? So these three levels are what I do.

Back to the book a minute, I think we have to go deeper than the debate so far. So far, on our side of this, its a debate about Cap-and-Trade or taxation, parts per million, parts per billion, and we get lost in this thicket and you can see the public face glaze over. I think we have to reckon with harder things, so there’s a part of the book that goes into the basis for hope as opposed to despair and optimism. Hope, as I say in the book, is “a verb with its sleeves rolled up”. In contrast to despair or optimism, which require you to do nothing, hope requires that you act. The Transition movement is the ultimate act of hopefulness, it’s “let’s start where we are”. So your sleeves are rolled up, you’re looking at how you get the pieces rearranged, of this thing called Totnes or Transition Town wherever.

But we also have to develop something, and I think it’s easier in Europe and Britain, what the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno called “the Tragic Sense of Life” – it’s the awareness that humans are a badly flawed species. We’re basically an upright chimpanzee with a big brain! Kurt Vonnegut says in one of his novels that next time around, whoever organises evolution we’ll have no brain!

The tragic sense of life says that things don’t always work well. That’s easier to grasp in a place like England or Europe where you get land littered with ruins that are testimony to our fallibility. We just don’t always get it right. John Gray is a conservative political philosopher who understands climate and environment and sometimes the tragic sense of life just tempers things. It isn’t long-faced and gloomy but it does mean that you have to reckon with something deeper than this fluffy thought up here.

My complaint about the sustainability and climate dialogue up to this point is that it operates at the superficial level, it’s like the veneer on this little table. Until we can get deeper, we’re probably not going to make it. We have to understand what we are as a species. This is why the work of people like Robert Wright who are delving into our evolutionary past, a lot of neuro-science is so important, because it is giving us a rather more accurate picture of who we are and it isn’t all bad! Yes, humans can do some nasty things, but we also have a bent for compassion, and community building. At the end of the day, what I’m doing in Oberlin and what you’re doing in the Transition movement depends a lot on people’s sense of generosity which I think is there in abundance, but that’s not good for the global economy of course, because if people were charitable, they’d be lousy consumers. If people had to do for themselves as competent individuals and neighbours, there’s a whole lot that they wouldn’t be buying at the shopping mall.

So the last couple of chapters offer a deeper perspective, and a tragic perspective. I think that the recognition of tragedy has the honest recognition of what we are, who we are, and what we can be, but aren’t yet. I think this opens us to genuine nobility, not just affluence, not just power, not just domination of the world, but genuine nobility. I think that’s that this movement is about. I think the Transition movement is a hinge movement in this larger ecological Enlightment which I believe is underway. Central to it is the fact that we’re related. It’s a systems view of everything, and a long-term view that says we have to think in terms of ten thousand year interludes and that, to me, is really cool. That is the human species starting to stretch into a fuller stature. We’re not there yet, but that, to me, is what is really powerful about this movement.

If I talk like this to a public audience, nobody understands it. If I talk about food issues, plumbing, housing, economics and jobs, people get that, and sooner or later they’ll get the larger agenda behind it…

How do you see things in terms of Peak Oil and the different scenarios that Richard Heinberg has set out of what that looks like in practise? Are you a Collapse person, or Powerdown person, or a Building Lifeboats person? How do you see that playing out? Which one should we be preparing for?

Richard is a friend and I’m a Post Carbon Institute Fellow like him. The book ends with a rational debate; at one end you’ve got Amory Lovins, who basically says there’s no such thing as peak oil, that if we apply ourselves we could be much more efficient and just sip energy and then there’s no real crisis. Even if that were true, in the best of all possible worlds you have to ask, is that a reasonable prediction of what we’re going to do? The answer therefore for me is that the jury is still out, the jury members are coming back into the courtroom one by one and it doesn’t look promising, you just don’t see vindication on their faces, to follow that metaphor. If you hold a gun to my head and say make a choice, I think I’m a Powerdown person. I think the place I want to spend my energy is trying to figure out how we get off this energy binge we’ve been on, I think Richard is right that if you sit back far enough it’s like this huge spike which will collapse. I think that’s the challenge of our time, to figure out how to maintain prosperity while using a whole lot less energy.

But then look around this space, those lights are all powered by fossil fuel energy coming from some place, those chandeliers (see picture at the start of this piece) have a footprint, there’s no low energy lightbulbs in them, so the question is we have this huge infrastructure to maintain, and it’s really hard to see a graceful way to power that down. On the other side of the debate, you’ve got James Lovelock saying at the end of the century there will be 2 billion people left on the planet, where did the other 4 or 5 billion go? You’re talking about a massive dieback. Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal at Cambridge, gives a fifty-fifty chance to have a civilisation intact by 2100, that’s 90 years away and then it all comes undone.

So, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I am. Richard Heinberg really helped frame the debate well. It’s clear that we’re running out of cheap fossil fuels. What’s left is deeper down, further out and in places like the Middle East where people don’t like us. We’ve built an incredibly fragile system. This was more in the public mind back in the Seventies. I was part of an effort, working with Jimmy Carter’s Transition Team in 1976. We delivered him a paper on energy and US resilience and the thing that’s so disturbing is that it still reads well forty years later. Which means not much has happened and the human population has expanded, every one of which has a footprint.

What do you think we can learn from that? It seems that in that period in the Seventies between the two oil shocks, lots of stuff flowered like research into permaculture, but it seems that when we got to the Eighties we made a collective decision to party for the next thirty years. Were we in the position at the end of the seventies to create a low carbon society if we chose to?

I think so. At the end of the Seventies, when Jimmy Carter left office, there was a report called the Global 2000 Report and a lot of the data is now obsolete – it’s even worse now than we thought it was, and we weren’t talking about climate change in that era! I think that that era began what was potentially the most important dialogue ever. It was on remaking the human presence on the planet in a way which was philosophically realigned, the Enlightenment wasn’t bad, it just didn’t go far enough! It didn’t include Enlightenment about our place in the natural world, it just wasn’t enlightening enough!

The instinct for data and logic was right. We began to prove the concept, through the work of John Todd, that you can clean wastewater and grow food sustainably and so on. Jane Jacobs was writing about sustainable cities without ever using the word. I think the intellectual capital and some of the experimental capital was incredibly valuable. By the end of the Eighties we had Wes Jackson’s work and Amory Lovins was starting to hit his stride and we had the capacity to re think the standards and the metrics by which we judge our success. In the economic movement Richard Heinberg was still a pup at that stage, probably still at college or something, but Herman Daly and Hazel Henderson, they were writing, there were people thinking this out. Edward Goldsmith’s ‘Blueprint for Survival’ came out in 1972. We had a cause, and we had solutions that were starting to congeal.

It’s hard to say exactly what happened to it. In the States Ronald Reagan ran on this platform of ‘It’s Morning in America Again’ and as I say in the book its now twighlight, the due bill is sitting on the desk. It was certain that big business got realigned and began to push the other way. That goes back to a memo that was written by a guy in the US Supreme Court, I forget his name, but he wrote a letter to the US Chamber of Commerce basically calling for a counter attack on the environmental movement. If you use the attorney’s rule of thumb, follow the money… if you want to find out why something happened, just trace the money back. I think all that stuff was threatening to agri-business, to Big Oil, to car manufacturers, to a whole lot of people.

The one thing that was missing in that dialogue in the Seventies and Eighties was that nobody was really talking about strategy. How do we convey this as a message? We made the assumption, at least I sure did, that all people needed were the facts, data and logic. That meant more articles, more books, and then pretty soon they’ll see what’s at stake. I think we missed the whole issue of how you motivate people and how you actually move the dialogue. I don’t know that even if we had tried to do that, I don’t know that we could have done. I know that I went to meetings in the Seventies and Eighties, talking about the politics of these things and I don’t think people got how important the political dimension was, even at the local scale, the national or global scale, I don’t think people were understanding it.

So, I think those years were potentially very valuable. In the meantime, John Todd’s work has got better, Wes Jackson’s work has morphed into natural systems agriculture, permaculture has become a technique for landscape management, water conservation, food production and aesthetics and real estate values, there’s been a lot of progress, it’s not like we’ve been sitting still.

We’ve come to a point now where some people, like Stewart Brand, are arguing that we’ve got our backs to the wall and maybe we have to be ready to do things that otherwise we’d prefer not to do. I’m not a happy camper with that stuff. I think that’s a way to try to prop up the Western project to dominate nature and with ever more heroic technology, and it will fail ever more catastrophically and spectacularly, to the point where you’re trying to geo engineer the planet, and well who the hell knows enough to do that?! How will you ever adjudicate the differences, if you’re going to increase rainfall there, decrease rainfall someplace else, tell me how you adjudicate those decisions, let alone know what you’re actually doing. … we don’t have the ecological know-how.

Wes Jackson pulled together a conference once on ‘ignorance-based world view’ (laughs), he and Wendell Berry and a bunch of us, and for three or four days we sat around and mulled over what it means to recognise that in fact we are inevitably more ignorant than we are smart … so what that means is, not that you stop science, but that you curtail large scale risky projects… call it the Precautionary Principle, which Stewart Brand dismisses, or call it what you will, the long of it is just prudence, there are some places angels fear to tread because you don’t go there, because you really don’t know what you what you’re causing. As Wendell Berry once put it “you don’t know what you’re doing because you don’t know what you’re undoing”…


Part Two

(Posted March 18 - original at Transition Culture)

How do you see the relationship between sustainability and resilience as concepts? Is resilience part of sustainability? Is sustainability part of resilience?

I guess for me sustainability is kind of a boring word but we’re stuck with it. But I tend to like resilience because it implies an active disposition to be able to withstand, it’s more of an engineering and mathematical term, but to be able to withstand disturbances. Some parameters change, some factors shift, and the system is able to adjust. There’s enough slack in the system that it works. So for me, at a minimum, sustainability implies resilience. In any definition of sustainability the system has got to be resilient to disturbances.

Are there any dangers inherent within the concept of relocalisation?

With my students, we talk about all these gee whizz environmental solutions and so forth, I want to get them to think about the dark side of what can happen, because I think the ‘happy talk’ view of humans is quite dangerous. I think that there are clearly ways in which Transition Towns and the local sustainability movement could become parochial and in my part of the world we have a history which shows that small towns can be vicious, mean places. In the 1880s until recently, lynchings we not uncommon.

The trick I think with Transition movement in this sense, is going to be to build in the mechanisms whereby people become more tolerant and open, although more constrained for fuels, electricity and so forth, but that we don’t create violence or parochialism, no matter how sustainable or otherwise. So I think the network idea was brilliant, to bring people in and create a movement. To have towns networked across the world that are part of this larger cosmopolitan dialogue of human presence in the world, and recognising that a Transition initiative is going to be different in Southern India, and in Indiana, and in Totnes, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Japan and China. But the basic questions are all going to be the same. How do we build, within the parameters of nature, and do it fairly, decently, sustainably, resiliently, openly, and with compassion toward everybody? So intolerance has to be bred out of everyone!

As this dialogue goes forward I would love to help foster the mechanisms whereby Transition Towns stay open and cosmopolitan and not parochial. The enemy here is fundamentalism, and the problem is you can have technological fundamentalist, economic growth fundamentalist, you can be a New York City cosmopolitan fundamentalist! It wears lots of different faces! That’s a great question though.

What is inner resilience? Why are some people more resilient than others? What does it look like if a community encounters shock – the population doesn’t just all go crazy and run round looting and stabbing each other, how does one help build that sense of compassion and flexibility and adaptability?

I think regarding the resilience you’re looking at in the face of catastrophe, I think we know three things that are important:
One is that catastrophes are coming. We don’t know the dates yet but we do know that the system is coming under increasing stress. Reserve stocks are way down, there’s a big drought in the American Midwest, and those stocks drop to below zero and there’s no slack in the system, so it’s going to be hand to mouth.

Secondly, civilisation is only nine meals away from anarchy. We know that no matter how good the intention is, however good people are, if they’re hungry, saints will turn into a mob. Get them hungry enough, turn the water off and the electricity off and you’ll cause panic and social psychology and biology take over.

Thirdly, I think it means that Transition Towns need food policy instead of relying on large-scale storage. I think networks of people, not just a town, let’s say in the Totnes area, between Devon and Cornwall, there needs to be a discussion about how go begin to stockpile food for bad years, or at least begin to talk about this stuff. Because if we’re reliant on large-scale systems to feed us, I think we’re kidding ourselves.

This debate was more alive in the Seventies than it is today, in terms of awareness of fragility and vulnerability, what Amory Lovins called ‘brittleness’ in systems. It doesn’t take really severe shocks to crack the system open. Roberto Vacca, an Italian systems theorist, wrote a book in the Seventies called The Coming Dark Age, and other authors wrote along the same lines during that period of rising awareness in the Seventies, it was part of the dialogue, that this could all come undone. There was a lot of thinking about how one event could cause it to unravel, a terrorist event, two Katrina-scale event…

I was on a panel once, sponsored by the CIA to think like terrorists. My team had to think like terrorists. The second team had to try and figure out what we came up with and what to do about it, and the third team and the third team (inaudible) and the three teams never talked. My team had to come up with the most heinous possibilities for terrorism, and we did, and they haven’t happened yet, but there’s no reason why they couldn’t. One plane loaded with high explosives could shut down the United States. The results of that panel were never published, but the fact is we’re vulnerable.

Naomi Klein’s book ‘The Shock Doctrine’, is one of the best books around, because what she did was to put her finger on something, there are some people whose interest it is to have shocking developments, you see a weak government, you take it over, you provide services to it, such as these now highly vulnerable, highly dependent people in New Orleans. She offers an important reality check. It’d be good to have her brought into this discussion because she brings a new perspective to what we perceive as disaster. I effectively dodged your whole question didn’t I?! But I talked learnedly! (laughs).

(The final part follows tomorrow….)


Part Three

(Posted March 19 - original at Transition Culture)

As somebody who has lived a long time immersed in climate data and environmental information and has lived with your nose up against the reality of that for a long time, how do you cope with that? What are your coping mechanisms? Knowing what you know, how does it affect how you live your life?

There is something to TS Elliot’s statement that humankind cannot bear too much reality. Not totally, but clearly if you come down with cancer or heart disease you want the truth. Ecological truths are harder for us to absorb and the pain of the world, not many of us can face this. A Canadian wildlife guy, John Livingstone, wrote some brilliant stuff, he really felt nature, and when he saw what was happening, extinctions and so forth, he wrote these outraged, impassioned columns, but it always amazes me that more people aren’t angry about this.

Maybe we’ve come into an era where nothing makes us angry other than when our favourite TV show is taken off, or the utility flips the lights out, maybe we’re an ‘opposed-to-anger’ society, but we’re discovering that with 7 billion people on the planet, maybe we’re a new species, but that’s not your question…

I’ve got a nice life. Today I was hanging out talking to the Prince’s Foundation, talking to smart intelligent people, yesterday the same, now I’m hanging out with you who I’ve wanted to meet for a long time, all of us doing good things, I’m really enjoying what I’m doing on the Oberlin Project, you’re really enjoying what you’re doing with Transition Towns….we get to go visit places… we have nice lives. It makes it difficult for us to empathise and to feel pain. In some ways we’re autistic to the future that we’ve created as a species – we can’t feel it very well or very consistently…

We were working on a project in New Orleans with Brad Pitt a couple of years ago, in the 9th Ward, he put a bunch of money up for these houses. It’s a large scale project that is actually moving. Anyway, I was with a friend of mine, in a bar in New Orleans, and I said “you look awful, you OK?’ He said he was really depressed. This was about the time when some of the hardcore data came out about the melting of the cryosphere, sea level rise. You look at that and you go “my God, this all could end, everything we care about as humans”.

You know Rob, this is so hard to think about. The most profound meditation I’ve ever read on extinction was how do we think about the silence in the Universe that we’re going to create when we’re no longer around? When you run the film fast forward and we go extinct, or something changes, we don’t have a date, but there isn’t much of a future for humankind. The most powerful meditation on this that I have ever read is from Jonathan Schells’ book ‘The Fate of the Earth’ which came out over 3 decades ago.

Here’s where that leads me. We don’t know and we cannot know yet, whether we’re up to survival or not. I’m persuaded that George Monbiot is probably right, that we live better than people have ever lived, and we live better than people will ever live. I don’t see a way round that.

I listen to all the people who promote ‘happy talk’, arguing that all we need is to invent new gizmos and deploy them and all will be well, but I think that what ails us is deeper than that. It is a kind of autism: we can’t feel what we’re doing to the world. We see the numbers over here of how many species have gone extinct but we don’t feel it.

At the recent launch of the Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World report, there was a guy there with these amazing photographs of albatross babies dead on the beach with their innards stripped open. What their mothers had been feeding them was the flotsam and electronic stuff and plastic that is floating about in that garbage belt in the Pacific and these birds have eaten it and are dying of starvation. It’s an amazing show. What he’s trying to do is raise awareness through the medium of photography, and to end our autism. We don’t know yet if that’s curable. I believe it is, but your question was how do I handle this?

My life is good, the situation here is bad. I’m part of a species that’s severely flawed through all sorts of things that we have created. I’ve got four grand kids. I enjoy what I’m doing. I would do it without pay. It’s the issue of our entire existence, whether humans can make themselves the positive presence on planet earth instead of a planetary blight. The jury’s out. We don’t know, but this is the time.
What do you see is the role of the arts in what we need to do?

This is kind of an almost late-life conversion. We have a great arts programme at Oberlin and the number 2, 3 or 4 ranked arts museum in US higher education. As I’ve see this debate unfold I think there are three factors in this that I see as galvanising. First is that for a long time we thought that science would save us, good data, logic and so on. That’s important, but it doesn’t move people. On the other side there’s the arts. Cinematography, photography, the classic arts, painting, poetry, music, they do move us, people read, they go to the movies, listen to symphonies, and books for me are terribly powerful things, but that’s the other side of the brain.

The third thing is the experiential level. That is beyond the capacity either of scientists to explain and probably beyond the arts to portray, that’s the experiential level. Watching a sunset, walking in the woods, fishing in the creek, that feeling of oneness with this all. It’s a friendly place. One of my favourite philosophers is Mary Midgley at Newcastle, I hope she’s still alive, I never met her but I love her books. She said we are all not as strangers in this place, we fit here, we belong here. That’s a powerful insight.

But how do you get that for young people today who watch who are plugged in to a screen or have earphones on for eight hours a day? Those three things have to be combined, recombined, in a way that creates probably a different human being. Science needs to continue, the arts need to engage that so it’s a common dialogue, experience needs to reinforce both of those… when you walk in the woods you need to see there’s something’s different here, there’s pain there in terms of species disappearing… I think if you aren’t connected with the natural world, if you don’t hike enough and walk the streams, have some sene of kinship with it all then science isn’t going to move you very much. It’s never going to really touch us.

Finally, have you seen the film Avatar and what do you think about it? It seems to have kicked off some fascinating debate among various writers in the green movement.

Firstly, I think it is important to stand back and notice how much high techy stuff it takes to entertain us nowadays. There’s this constant escalation of the gee-whizz factor. We get our highs now increasingly with electronic stimuli of various sorts. I thought the movie was OK. It was a fairly juvenile good versus evil story. In that sense it’s really a shallow story.

It didn’t portray nature I think in a way that would move more than a fraction of the audience to do any different than what they are already doing. It’s a little too goody two shoes in the way it portrays nature and these creatures that are so attuned. No human has ever been that close to nature, and there’s some pretty bad stuff that went on in tribal societies.

Avatar, on balance, I’d give a C. I am really sceptical about whether movies can move us much, and it’s sort of a heretical notion, I think a summer working on a farm can move somebody, I think a serious permaculture project can move somebody, I think a relationship with an animal, or animals, for people who are highly disturbed, they care and find they have an affection for it…

Building a cob wall?

Yes… what happens in a movie is strictly about how certain electrons hit the brain, but imagine sitting in a jam session with a bunch of other musicians around a campfire making music, on a warm summers night, the moon and the stars are in the sky, there’s a crowd milling round, the sight and smells of food cooking and fire burning. The whole envelopment of the senses moves us whereas a movie is really not that sensous. Just the eyeballs and whatever stimuli that kicks up.

What moves us is what engages our five senses and a couple of others that we maybe have but don’t know about. That’s what causes us to move. I think I am the person I am because I spent a lot of time out in the woods and in the fields… that oneness with nature is an infinite concept, but its hard to feel in a movie theatre, sitting in a black room, eating popcorn with artificial butter on, having driven there for an hour through freeways and the hellhole of this modern urban sprawl and parked in an asphalt parking lot to be shown that nature on another planet is really nice!

I guess I am jaundiced. I don’t find that movies move me. They can make you think about stuff, films like Dead Man Walking, which really made me think about the death penalty from two different sides, that movie made me think about something, rather than just scratching my head. It may open the concept that perhaps smart creatures can live in harmony with nature, but it was just too sweetsy cutsey, you know, sitting around in that big tree, flying on birds, it was just too sweetsy cutesy to be plausible, and when we get down to it, nature can be brutal and nasty, there were some nasty creatures but… a C, or maybe a C minus.

Editorial Notes: David Orr is the Post Carbon Institute Fellow for Climate, Education & Communities. BA: Changed "Oakland College" to "Oberlin College" http://www.oberlin.edu/envs/faculty_pages/orr.htm Added Part II (March 18, 2010) Added Part III (March 19, 2010)

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