It’s the Middle of the Sundance Film Festival Journey

What a long, great week it’s been. The 2009 Sundance Film Festival has hit the midway point and as of 24 hours ago, and we have a new president here in the United States. With all of the activity and excitement of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival already swirling around in my psyche, yesterday’s inauguration managed to double the amps of amazement. At Sundance we’ve been asking people to tell us about how they’re making changes in their lives that serve to lessen their environmental impact. There exists a common thread among the folks we’ve been speaking with, who by the way, are graciously giving us their time to engage in these meaningful conversations.

That common theme is a sense of responsibility. Nearly every person that we’ve talked to about Earthkeeping has an understanding of the need to be accountable for their actions when it comes to the environment. They have a sense of responsibility that results from what appears to be an intrinsic awareness of how the choices they make in their daily lives impact their environment – on both a local and global scale. That’s been the most refreshing aspect of this Sundance experience. And when I consider that our new President here in the United States has issued a call for every citizen to accept responsibility for his or her actions, it’s good to know that we’re not starting from scratch. 

In his inauguration address yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “…each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” This was a description of the current state of affairs as they relate to the environment and climate change. Later on during his speech while we was eloquently painting the image, with broad strokes, that depicts his vision for hope, he went on to say, “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Towards the end of his speech, Obama explained that “while our challenges may be new and the instruments with which we meet them may be new…What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

To many, this is the starting line of a journey for people with a renewed and inspired sense of responsibility. And the skeptics could say, things might change but it won’t be long before we revert back to our normal behaviors of high impact and consumption. But to me, after having the opportunity to engage citizens from around the globe in a dialogue about Earthkeeping I’ve come to the realization that this isn’t the starting line. We’ve already begun to take accountability. It’s not ground zero, and that element is where the roots of hope for a reversal of climate change have taken hold.

There is no better example of this than the film that will close the Sundance Film Festival this Friday night. It’s called Earth Days and it was directed by Robert Stone. Geoffrey Gilmore, the director of the Festival, describes Earth Days in the 2009 Film Guide this way, Director Robert Stone concocts an inspiring and hopeful work in Earth Days, a feature documentary that recounts the history of the modern environmental movement from its beginnings nearly four decades ago. Environmental activism really began with the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and precipitated an unexpected and galvanizing effect on the national psyche.

Told through the eyes of nine very divergent witnesses. . .Earth Days is a visually stunning, globe-spanning chronicle of watershed events and consciousness-changing realizations that prompted a new awareness: the post–World War II American dream of a future world created by scientific progress, new technology, and economic expansion was rapidly changing into a nightmare.

To the twenty million Americans who demanded change and political action to protect the environment on that first Earth Day, the urgency and scale of the current crisis would have seemed extreme and alarmist. Earth Days is a truly cogent and powerful depiction of the awakening of the world to environmental reality by a dedicated and skilled filmmaker; ignoring its message could imperil us all!

Earth Days is one of those films that reinforce that common thread that we’re seeing among Festival goers this week – the shared sense of responsibility for the environment and the impact we have on it. It reinforces the notion that in this time of hope we can be proud of the fact that we have a staunch historical perspective and broad range of experiences from which we can draw as we continue our journey towards the goal to becoming an environmentally sustainable global community.  Yes, it’s been a long, great week in Sundance, and I’m glad they saved what could be the best film, for last.

Yours in Earthkeeping,

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