On Wednesday, Reel Progress sponsored a screening of “The 11th Hour,” a feature-length environmental documentary. The film is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and explores the myriad of ecological crises confronting our planet. Its message is straightforward: the earth is teetering toward irreversible environmental catastrophe, but there is still a chance to change course, and “turn mankind’s darkest hour into its finest.”
The film begins with an exploration of humankind’s place in Earth’s biological community, lamenting that we’ve been living under the “illusion that we are separate from nature when in fact we are one, we are connected to nature.” It goes on to explain the history of human evolution and population growth, ultimately pointing to the industrial revolution and the birth of the fossil fuel age as the turning points when humanity began to overshoot the earth’s ecological limits.
The film features interview clips from over fifty experts. William McDonough talks about green design, NASA’s Jim Hansen discusses global warming, World Wildlife Fund Scientist and author Theo Colborn talks about chemical contamination and proliferation of ailments like asthma and cancer. The film is full of hard scientific evidence, yet presents the information in a very watchable format.
Images of striking natural beauty–swimming whales, African plains–are juxtaposed against human-caused destruction–Katrina refugees, belching smokestacks, and chemical waste. The film covers problems ranging from deforestation to ocean acidification to soil erosion.
The strongest feature of the film was its ability to describe in such detail the destruction taking place, and yet still leave the viewer with hope for the future. The film ends by delivering a clear message that it isn’t too late for humanity to change course. Technological solutions are highlighted, such as ecological design, biomimicry, and renewable energy. Moreover, the film addresses the personal, spiritual commitment necessary to affect change as well. It closes with a call to build political will for taking action, both through government channels, and by daily lifestyle and consumption choices.
The screening was followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers Nadia Conners, Writer and Director, Leila Conners Petersen, Writer, Director, and Producer, Matthew Petersen, CEO of Global Green USA, and moderated by former EPA Administrator and Center for American Progress board member Carol Browner. The panelists provided insight into their motivation for creating the film, and their goals for the project.
The film opens August 17th in Los Angeles and New York, with a wider national release on August 24th. It couldn’t come at a more opportune time: with Congress tackling energy and climate change legislation when it reconvenes in September, political will for change will be key.