Let’s jump off the train and build a boat… a lifeboat, an ark, a galleon of adventure and imagination destined for unknown lands. Build it now. The ice is melting. The waters are rising. We’re going to have to let go of the shore. – Tim Bennett, director of What A Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire
As an expectant grandfather, I worry about what kind of world my grandson is about to be born into… peak oil, the population explosion, global warming and the mass extinction of species. The effects of these looming crises are with us 24/7 in the news. And it’s now dawning on us that things are coming to a head sooner than we imagined.
Temperatures and water levels are both rising. Polar bears will soon be paddling farther and farther through newly opened shipping lanes, dotted by drilling rigs and floating hotels for oil prospectors. Not good news.
It would certainly be freeing and empowering to at last be treated like an adult for once and not be spoon-fed like a two-year old by the corporate media. What’s unique about the new film What a Way to Go (WAWTG) is its scope. It unabashedly takes on the increasing interaction and severity of all these trends without disingenuously reporting them as unrelated events – the truth not greenwashed with the illusion that some techno-fix around the corner will save this whole unsustainable edifice.
This compelling movie gives the perspective of a Midwestern white guy – a lot like me – awakening to these realities through a lifetime of observing changes on the planet and coming to grips with them. Director Tim Bennett and producer Sally Erickson portray industrial civilization as a powerful, speeding train. If anybody is in the locomotive up front, nobody is paying attention to the coming consequences of a whole system collapse at the end of the line.
The narrator discovers that acknowledging one’s own denial about the lethal trajectory of the path we are all on is the crucial first step. Next he questions, “How did we get here? Why do we keep destroying life on this planet? What do we truly want? How can we find a vision that will empower us to do what is necessary to survive, and even thrive, in the coming decades?”
WAWTG (aka Life at the End of Empire) features interviews of big picture luminaries like Daniel Quinn (Ishmael), Derrick Jensen (Endgame), Jerry Mander (In the Absence of the Sacred), Chellis Glendinning (Off the Map), Richard Heinberg (The Oil Depletion Protocol) and Father Thomas Berry (The Dream of Earth) among many others.
Unlike most other documentaries, this film does not provide the “happy chapter” at the end, serving up a dish of “what you can do” to save the planet. It’s going to take more than switching light bulbs. Tim Bennett says, “I don’t like happy chapters. They’ve lulled me back to sleep. They suggest that somebody, somewhere, somehow, is handling it. I can just go on with my life.”
It’s you and I who will now have to write that final chapter, in our communities and in our relationships with each other and with the Earth. See this movie; it offers the most comprehensive overview of what is really going on.
Former Common Ground staff member Phil Watson is keenly interested in environmental and men’s issues.
Where to see it
WAWTG screens in Victoria October 15; in Ladner October 16, and in Vancouver October 17. Screenings at 6:45pm followed by a community talking circle, facilitated by the filmmakers. For details see Datebook listings in this issue. Call 604-940-0580 or visit online www.whatawaytogomovie.com
Flash: Activist Derrick Jensen, one of the many visionaries spotlighted in the film, speaks in Vancouver on October 19. See Datebook for details. Jensen is interviewed in both WAWTG and in the May 2007 issue of Common Ground.
What people are saying
Despite its uncompromising challenges to viewers, I predict it will quickly acquire “cult status” because of its power to change lives and to motivate people to change events, and that we’ll be hearing a lot about it over the coming years.
– Keith Thomas, Nature and Society Forum
Nothing less than a 123-minute cat scan of the planet and its twenty-first century human and non-human condition.
– Carolyn Baker, CarolynBaker.org