Wednesday, May 29, 2013

1 in 7 Billion

Two weeks ago I had an idea. Nothing more, just a simple suggestion. Several of my friends, however, took the idea seriously enough to challenge me to take it as seriously and follow up. So, I took a timid step, then another and another. Fourteen days later a plan has taken shape. I am nervous, humbled, and thrilled all at the same time.

What I suggested was that we might show a world-class documentary somewhere in Little Rock, probably at my local church. The movie would be related to one of several social issues of current debate. I had mentioned three movies, but my thinking was to pick one and see what kind of response we could get first. Then several of us discussed a weekly series of up to, say, four weeks. I liked the idea of a series a lot, but upon further reflection and discussion, one showing a week seemed too intense. What about once a month? Perfect.

So, which documentaries should we select to bring to Central Arkansas. My personal favorite, Home, did not make the cut because it did not quite fit the 'theme' as described below. Here are the ones that did get picked.

  1. Do the Math is the shortest of the four (43 min), but it may be the most important, as it articulates what may be the only question that matters in the long run, how to address the climate crisis. This brings us to the 'theme', which is that we must tackle these crises together through non-violent direct action on a grass-roots level, here and around the globe.
  2. The second movie, Occupy Love, brings home this point again and again. It is only through compassion and solidarity that we will we overcome these most troublesome of issues in every arena.
  3. The third, A Place at the Table, looks at the heart-rending problem of hunger and poverty in our country. Here again the magnitude of the problem seems overwhelming, but the solution is not without precedent and it requires all of us. These first three films were released this year, quite current.
  4. The final movie, The Day After Peace, came out in 2009. It is the middle of three Peace One Day documentaries, but we chose it over the third at the recommendation of the producers. ("If you only see one, pick this one.")

After choosing these films, we next considered the venue. A church building is not exactly the most conducive setting for several reasons, perhaps the least of which have to do with projection, lighting, and sound. Fortunately the owner of Market Street Cinema came forward and graciously offered a more appropriate facility for the film series. It has not gone without notice that St. Margaret's Episcopal Church, the host of this series, began its ministry and had its first worship service at this theater. Just a bit of nostalgia.

No public film series would be complete without publicity. We will use conventional advertising where feasible, certainly, but these films are the kind that are intended to be shared virally through social media. Please help us spread the word by Liking, Sharing, Commenting, Inviting, Tweeting, Posting, Pinning, and Emailing, even if most of your network friends do not live in Arkansas. These movies deserve to be "talked about" around the world.

The Theme

From the outset we decided we would not focus on just one issue, such as climate or poverty or war. But there is a common denominator among these films, which is that our world now faces a number of serious crises, any one of which could be demoralizing by itself. But instead of inviting us to hang our heads in despair, we are inspired to come together in compassion and in unity to make a difference and change the world. The theme is that our hope is found neither in apathy nor in violence, but in working together through love.

The "One in Seven Billion" film series Home page is

DateMovieTrailerRSVPWeb site
June 23
6:20 PM
Do the Math Preview Facebook
July 21
6:20 PM
Occupy Love Preview Facebook
Aug 18
6:20 PM
A Place at the Table Preview Facebook
Sept 15
6:20 PM
The Day After Peace Preview Facebook

Monday, May 13, 2013

400 parts per million

In case you missed it last week, for the first time in human history, concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary global warming pollutant, hit 400 parts per million in the Earth's atmosphere. This is alarming. When I reflect on the future of our planet, it is easy to succumb to pessimism and believe I am powerless to make an ounce of difference. After all, I can only do so much and surely that is not enough. Who am I to imagine that out of seven billion people on our planet, my actions can change a thing, anything at all? What I am slowly coming to realize is that the words "only" and "not' must be crossed out. "I can only do so much, and surely that is not enough." If I do what I am called to do, who am I to say that this is not enough? It will be enough, and it will make all the difference in the world.

So at least for now this is my calling: to raise awareness of the issues among my friends (plus theirs and possibly even theirs). That is all, nothing more, nothing less. Awareness is a powerful tool. The English word awareness comes from the same ancient root as "steward", "guard", and "revere". We are expected to be stewards of the Earth, to guard and revere it. We do this by becoming aware of how our actions affect our island home. Over the past few months, I have been exploring ways of raising awareness about climate change and its causes through online activities. I'm still working on this, but lately I have found several new documentaries that I believe I am called to share with the people of Central Arkansas in one way or another. I will write about how at the end of this post, but first let me describe these compelling movies.


Although "Home, the movie" was new to me, it is actually not new, released June 5, 2009. It has been seen over 15 million times on YouTube and watched by more than 400 million people around the globe, a number I would like to see increased in Central Arkansas by several dozen or possibly several hundred. It was made by filmmaker Yann Arthus-Bertrand who worked for free for 3 years to make the film, conceived as a gift to the public. It is the first environmental film made using only aerial photography, shot entirely from the air and filmed in 120 locations in over 50 countries. You can watch the Trailer here. "In a single lifetime the earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity. Know that the solutions are there today. We all have the power to change. So what are we waiting for?" The rules for organizing a public screening of home are: (1) the screening will be free (no entrance fee), (2) the film will be screened in its full length, with sound and music, (3) the film will be shown in optimal screening conditions. I have downloaded this film as an mp4 file, but higher resolution may be available. It is 93 minutes in length.

Do the Math

This film is new, released just this month. The Do the Math documentary is a 42-minute film about the rising movement in the United States to change the terrifying maths of the climate crisis and challenge the fossil fuel industry. While it is set in the United States, the maths the film outlines apply globally. You can watch the Trailer here. "This is the biggest emergency the human family has faced since it came out of the cave. ... We have a moral catastrophe on our hands. ... What's at stake now is civilization itself. ... This is the only question that will matter in the long run." Registering a local Do the Math screening is easy. I have downloaded an mp4 file, but higher resolution may be available. It is 42 minutes in length, and it is a must watch.

Occupy Love

Occupy Love explores the growing realization that the dominant system of power is failing to provide us with health, happiness or meaning. The old paradigm that concentrates wealth, founded on the greed of the few, is causing economic and ecological collapse. The resulting crisis has become the catalyst for a profound awakening: millions of people are deciding that enough is enough – the time has come to create a new world, a world that works for all life. You can watch the Trailer here. "The lover knows that more for you is more for me. We live in a time of record-breaking crisis, but it's also a time of record-breaking vision. Being awake is love, that's what it is. There is no love quite like that, the willingness to put it all on the line, for your neighbors, for future generations, for the rest of creation. How could this crisis be framed as a great love story?" Occupy Love screenings are flowering around the world. I have purchased (and received / watched) the Blu Ray disc of this movie. It is 86 minutes in length.

How to Share

These documentaries were meant to be shared. They were meant to be spread "virally" and they were meant to be watched and discussed together. You can begin, of course, by "liking" and "sharing" this post or link, but more importantly you can brainstorm with me about how to share these powerful videos with the wider community. I believe all three videos deserve a "screening" by the widest audience in Central Arkansas possible. If I were to pick just one of these, it would be "Do the Math", simply because it is the most succinct and most direct. It is also short enough to present to an Adult Formation class on Sunday Morning at St. Margaret's, for example. But maybe we should organize a series on, say, Tuesday or Sunday evenings in Williams Hall at St. Margaret's. If we were to do this, I would suggest showing (1) Do the Math, (2) Home, (3) Occupy Love, and (4) Do the Math again over four weeks. But Williams Hall is not the most ideal setting for a movie, so what about renting a theater? We could explore options at Market Street Cinema or Chenal 9, for example. We should not (or cannot for Home) charge an admission fee, but there would be nothing wrong with accepting donations to defray the costs of theater rental or giving to the underlying organizations.

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