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A road not taken

2010 Environmental Film Festival website
United States Premiere In 1979, in a visionary move, President Jimmy Carter installed solar panels on the roof of the White House. This symbolic installation was taken down in 1986 during the Reagan presidency. In 1991, Unity College, an environmentally-oriented college in Maine, acquired the panels and later installed them on their cafeteria roof. In A Road Not Taken, Swiss artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller follow the route the solar panels took, interviewing those involved in the decisions regarding these panels as well as those involved in the oil crisis of the time. They also look closely at the way this initial installation presaged our own era. Directed by Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller.

Introduced by Jeffrey Stine, Chair, Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History. Presentation of one of the solar panels featured in the film, now in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection, by Harry Rubenstein, Chair, Division of Politics and Reform, National Museum of American History. Discussion with filmmakers Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller follows screening…
(1X March 2010)

Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities and Our Health

Annie Leonard, Alternet
This following is an excerpt from The Story Of Stuff: How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing The Planet, Our Communities, And Our Health – And A Vision For Change by Annie Leonard. Excerpted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Copyright © 2010 by Annie Leonard.


So here we are. All sorts of stuff is lining the real or virtual shelves of stores, ready to slip into our shopping carts or be assembled and shipped according to our desires. Enter the consumer. Stage left, stage right, storming stores and online shopping portals, armed with credit cards and freshly cashed paychecks. This stage of the game is What It’s All For — at least that’s what we’re told. For a moment, as the almighty consumer makes her selection from a long menu of choices, the entire world revolves around her. She experiences a surge of power as she trades her hard-earned money for a piece of stuff and becomes its owner, either meeting a need, indulging a whim, shifting a bad mood — or maybe all three at once. “When things get tough, the tough go shopping,” as the bumper stickers used to say.

Lots of our favorite characters and cultural icons surround themselves with signature cool Stuff. Where would 007 be without his latest gadget, his perfectly tailored suit, or his (insert your favorite model of future car here)? What would the Oscars be without the gowns? How could we love Carrie Bradshaw without her outrageous brimmed hats and designer shades and glossy shopping bags full of ruffled dresses and sky-high heels? Would we recognize Holly Golightly without her infatuation with Tiffany’s? We’re attached to these characters’ possessions and obsessions as much as to their personalities; it’s all part of our national mythology. It only makes sense that we’d get attached to our own Stuff.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I’m not against all consumption. One irate viewer of The Story of Stuff film e-mailed me and said, “If you’re against consumption, where did you get that shirt you’re wearing?” Duh. Of course everyone needs to consume to live. We need food to eat, a roof over our head, medicine when we’re sick, and clothes to keep us warm and dry. And beyond those survival needs, there’s a level of additional consumption that makes life sweeter. I enjoy listening to music, sharing a bottle of wine with friends, and occasionally donning a nice new dress as much as the next person.

What I question is not consumption in the abstract but consumerism and overconsumption. While consumption means acquiring and using goods and services to meet one’s needs, consumerism is the particular relationship to consumption in which we seek to meet our emotional and social needs through shopping, and we define and demonstrate our self-worth through the Stuff we own. And overconsumption is when we take far more resources than we need and than the planet can sustain, as is the case in most of the United States as well as a growing number of other countries. Consumerism is about excess, about losing sight of what’s important in the quest for Stuff…
(16 March 2010)
And the blurb about Annie’s new book is here. For those of you not familiar with Annie’s work, the Story of Stuff started out as a short video which can be downloaded from Annie’s website.

Richard Heinberg Lecture Peak Oil Pt 1

City of Edmonton
Richard Heinberg, the Senior Fellow-in-Residence of the Post Carbon Institute is widely regarded as one of the worlds foremost Peak Oil educators.

Heinberg was in Edmonton on Feb. 11th, 2010 as part of the City of Edmonton’s ‘The Way We Green’ Distinguished Speaker Series. The Way We Green is Edmontons environmental strategic plan — a blueprint for being the nation’s leader in setting the highest standards of environmental preservation and sustainability.

Heinberg spoke on the subject of Peak Oil and Economic Transition, asking how much Oil did you use today? Are We Running Out? What does this mean for the things we do, the food we eat, the places we go? Heinberg challenged the audience to think the unthinkable, exposing the tenuousness of our current way of life while offering a vision for a truly sustainable future

The University of Albertas Environmental Research and Studies Centre was host to Richard Heinberg later in the evening at the Myer Horowtiz Theatre for a repeat lecture and continued on societys future relationship with energy…
(25 Feb 2010)
This presentation has 5 other parts, all of which can be accessed from the Youtube link. -KS

Q&A with Chef Dan Barber: Can organic farming feed the world?

Dan Barber, TED talks
At TED2010, Chef Dan Barber drew a standing ovation with his unlikely love story about fish: sustainably farmed, outrageously delicious fish, which offers a model for the future of food production. A key figure in the farm-to-table movement, Dan occupies an unusual space as chef-scholar: His op/eds appear regularly in The New York Times and elsewhere; and he prepares genius menus nightly at his two Blue Hill Restaurants — one in New York City and one at the Stone Barns farm in Pocantico Hills, NY. We caught up with Dan in New York to better understand the meaty issues he raised in his talk.

In your talk, you made it clear that you hate the question, “How are you going to feed the world?” But you sure answered it convincingly. So — at the risk of alienating you — can local, organic farming feed the world?

Here’s what I know: Conventional agriculture has never succeeded in feeding the world, and it’s never produced anything good to eat. For the future, we need to look toward alternatives. Does that mean a world full of local and organic farms? Yes, those ideas will certainly become more important as we move forward—they’ve been proven to work (just look at the recent International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, the most comprehensive study to date on the future of agriculture), and they’re critical to conserving the planet’s natural resources. But I also think we need to radically reconsider what agriculture looks like—perhaps it involves models like Veta La Palma, or agroforestry, or perennial wheat polycultures, like the ones being developed at The Land Institute. These are systems that demonstrate natural resilience and ecological stability, which are essential for facing the challenges ahead.

Your TEDtalk presents itself as a really gentle tale, but it’s actually a pretty radical proposition for rethinking food production. Talk to me about where you think agriculture has gone wrong.

When you say that agriculture has gone wrong, it sounds like you’re advocating for a system that’s 200 years old. I couldn’t be further from that; I love technology. But I do think we’re heading for a vastly different food experience, in our lifetimes. I think the conventional food system — which is based on lots of cheap energy, lots of cheap labor, lots of available water, lots of soil erosion — is going to be a dead man walking 20 years from now. And that’s because the things it relies upon are not going to be available.

If you look at the carrying capacity of agricultural areas throughout the world, their ecological habitats are changing. So I think we’re looking at — in our lifetime — great collapses of food services. We need the humbleness and clarity to see that our food, while benefitting from technological advances, has benefitted even more from free ecological resources: Cheap energy, lots of water everywhere, and a stable climate. But studies have shown these are eroding. And if you take these away — if you don’t have those in abundance — you’re not only going to NOT feed the world, you’re not going to be able to eat the way we do now. We’re going to be forced into a new system. The question is: Is that going to be a traumatic transition, or are we going to start preparing for it now?

The typical and very loud argument against organic farming is that it can’t scale, that the yields aren’t high enough. How do you respond to that?

Yield is a tricky topic, especially if you have an agenda. I know this from our own farming: You can look at yield a lot of different ways. When a study says that conventional farms produce more per acre than organic farms, they’re talking about yield, not total output.

Yield is generally defined by economists as yield for a particular crop. When you farm in a monoculture, that’s easy to measure. But when you farm organically, you grow several different crops. So your yield per individual crop is lower, but your total output of caloric foods is higher…
(17 March 2010)
More of Dan’s writings can be found on the Blue Hill Farm website.

The Global Food Market (VIDEO): Why Do Some Eat Well While Others Starve?

Denis Van Waerebeke, Huffington Post

It’s baffling that in some parts of the world, there’s an oversupply of food, while elsewhere people are suffering from malnourishment. Denis van Waerebeke lays it all out in his infographic video, “How to Feed the World,” showing that it all comes down to food dependency, and how a system of imports and exports complicate a process that could be simplified by focusing on the local. Of course it’s a little more convoluted than that, but the video explains it in a way that manages to be both digestible and informative.


How to feed the world ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

(17 March 2010)

New Film Exposes Dirty Canadian Oil

Climate and Capitalism
This is the trailer for Dirty Oil, a film about the Alberta Tar Sands that premiers this week in 25 theatres across the UK. It’s narrated by Canadian actress Neve Campbell.

(14 March 2010)