Last night I watched Earth Days film by Robert Stone with several other friends at our local food coop. I had viewed the film when it was first shown on American Experience for the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, established in 1970. Earth Day heralded a wave of environmental activism which increased the general public’s awareness that we are part of a big natural web of life—not individuals with our own manual of operations.
Rather than leaving us filled with hope, the film documents how American society missed a critical turning point at which we could have charted a different energy future and today would be far less imperiled ecologically. Beginning with John Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, and Bush I and II each publicly declared energy independence and ecological protection as values. Some were sincere, others did what was politically expedient, but all nonetheless kept the nation pointed toward the right goal post.
Jimmy Carter struck a bold path when he created a national policy away from fossil fuels toward solar, wind and other alternatives and for which he was later scorned. Reagan wasted no time ripping the solar panels off the White House roof. Hunter Lovins—who founded Natural Capitalism Solutions to educate senior decision-makers to restore and enhance natural and human capital—makes the point that Carter made a critical mistake by portraying the future as restricted by self-imposed restraint to limit growth. PAY ATTENTION HERE! This is the crux of our current political divide.
Obama knows that he cannot use that language—the language of limited growth—in the body-politic because it is the deathnell of any American President. Thus both candidates for the next leader of our nation are talking economic growth and prosperity without the mention of the natural capital that fuels our wealth. Environmentalists have been more than frustrated with Obama for not leading on climate change, including me. Yet if he did so, he can kiss the Presidency good-bye.
This is the moral and political quagmire of our times.
At the end of the film which takes us to a time of massive climate change from the burning of fossil fuels, viewers are left to wonder. One person asked out loud: What happened to all those electric cars that were produced in the 70’s? I did not know we had started to produce those then! What happened?
And another person said, “This film is dark. What can we do now?” The film suggests its too late. That we missed the critical juncture in our nation’s historic path as the world leader…a place of power and dominance that is ever waning.
Look for Stone’s next film, Pandora’s Promise, which explores the resurgence of interest in nuclear power as a way to fuel civilization’s growth and development.
BRUSH UP ON YOUR ECOLITERACY TO LEARN WHY LIMITS TO GROWTH IS THE LAW OF NATURE…THE LAW HUMANS INTEND TO CIRCUMNAVIGATE.