Sunday, August 31, 2014

Do the Y.E.R.T. (A Documentary Film Review)!

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And now for something completely different…”  

We (well, just me, actually) interrupt our regularly scheduled Day by Day Homestead blogging schedule to bring you a movie review! 

This past week, I watched an excellent documentary called YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip.  The plot of the film is that a group of three young people (a married couple and one of their friends) travel on a trip across the United States in a hybrid car over the course of a year.  They take a peek at the general state of the environment in the U.S., as well as learn about many of the real solutions that folks are implementing to assist in bringing forth a brighter future for us all.

Along with their travels across the country, the group of three friends attempts to reduce their environmental footprint, including severely restricting the amount of waste that they produce by restricting themselves to one shoebox-sized box full of trash per person per month.  Not only that, but they have to store those boxes in the car with them as they travel, which results in using many innovative and environmentally friendly ways to reduce their waste. 

One of the moments in the film that really stuck out to me was when the travelers visited a site in the Appalachian Mountains where coal mining has been actively going on.  Although I had been previously aware of many of the negative environmental and health impacts of blowing off entire mountain tops to extract coal, this film visually captured what is going on in that region of the country and made it real to me.   This point about coal is particularly relevant to the majority of our lives in the United States since a great deal of our electricity is still produced from coal.

We hear about environmental problems and most of the time we acknowledge in our minds that they are bad, but it is often only until we see these things for ourselves by film or in person that we begin to make them something that we care about.  We are visual beings.  That is why I believe that film is such an important media in this age of global environmental crises.  For the first time in human history, the global environmental impacts of human actions can be brought right into our homes.  However, we must be careful not to become desensitized to these problems and put them into the same categories as any other “entertainment” that we so often feed our minds with.  Our choices are to ignore the problems, get depressed because we feel that we can’t do anything about them, or decide to take action and create positive changes in our own lives in whatever ways that we can as a result of what we have seen.  I’m for the latter as much as possible.

Watching this film has really solidified my concerns about coal (which is never truly clean, no matter what spin that public relations people might put on it), and it certainly makes me contemplate how we are quickly extracting these toxic resources for our energy needs, and how it really represents a momentary blip in the entire realm of human history.  This issue and many others like it are essentially very short term gains in exchange for long term health and environmental problems. There are far more superior and sustainable solutions to meet our energy needs, and we already have access to many of them right now.   

Permaculture is a great comprehensive design system that can help us to transition toward a better future, but there are also many other ways to create positive changes that will benefit everyone and our planet.  Although as a species we are fairly entrenched at present in our ideologies of what the “ideal” lifestyle is supposed to be, there are much better ways to live, and we can all come out in a far better place if we choose to.  We can collectively do this as a human race, and we can create a shift away from a society that is obsessed with constantly expanding and growing (i.e., a global culture that is constantly extracting non-renewable resources and throwing most of the things that we create “away” within six months) to a society of what many economists are now calling a “steady state economy,” and one that takes environmental and human impacts into account with how we live. 

Although this film shows many of the environmental problems going on in the United States, it also demonstrates many of the positive things that people are doing to help propel our society towards a more sustainable future.  I believe that this will happen more quickly as more of humanity begins to awaken to the fact that we live on a finite planet.   Having a great deal of the population reconnect with nature would help us value our dependence on nature as well.  

Oh, and one of my favorite parts of the film is when they interview my favorite farmer, Joel Salatin! 

I highly recommend watching this film if you have some free time.  I was able to watch it on Netflix, but here is a link on the film’s website about other ways to view it as well.

Here is a preview about the film from YouTube if you would like to learn more about it:

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