I've been speaking to young people about the future of the environmental movement for decades and more so during this past year since the completion of my film, Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist which will be released in the U.S. just in time for Earth Day (April 22, 2012).
From Cannes to Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Bermuda, the Faeroe Islands and everywhere in between, everyone seems to have some sort of awareness in regards to how important nature is. Thirty years ago the general public didn't know the meaning of the word ecology. Paul Watson and Bob Hunter hung a sign up in Vancouver in 1980 that said, "Ecology: Look it up," and today even BP is "green"... or claims to be green.
I recently returned from a trip to Antarctica with Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd crew. Being the longest-serving crew member, I've seen a lot in these past three decades including Japan's reluctance to stop killing whales in a whale sanctuary.
One has to wonder, with all the adverse publicity, the diminishing of markets and their aging fleet, why the Japanese still are still whaling?
Perhaps they're a bit more clever than the rest of world. While countries like the U.S., Russia, Australia, New Zealand and others spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to keep permanent research bases on Antarctica so that they can have a seat at the table when the continent is divided like a pie for her natural resources, Japan cruises south for a couple of months a year with the hope of doing the same. Until recently, their research was paid for by the sale of whales but not anymore. The meat has the highest mercury content of any animal in the world, it tastes terrible and the world's opinion hardens against this ridiculous adventure. Furthermore, Sea Shepherd's intervention in their illegal activity has cost the country millions. They have to prove they have historic ties and a long-term presence in the area to be eligible for a "piece of the pie." Truth be told, it was the U.S. government who instigated the Japanese whale hunt in the first place, after World War II, after the country had been decimated.
Even though we continue to fight eco-battles around the world, the revolution of consciousness has been won. Now it is time for us to learn to govern.
Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth may have done more harm than good. While in power, the Clinton-Gore administration gutted and compromised the environment at every turn. Once retired, Mr. Gore finally makes his stand, wins the Nobel Peace Prize and cleans up by scaring the public and reaping huge profits from selling carbon credits. For all their self-congratulatory bragging and pronouncements, the Clinton-Gore administration was a giant failure for the environment.
The greatest environmental president remains to this day, Richard Nixon... go figure. The Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act still stand and should act as positive examples to Obama and any future eco-posers.
So my question is: Why in a country so "green" is it so difficult to truly accomplish anything positive for our environment?
I attended the Hamburg Film Festival last fall to screen Confessions of an Eco-Terrorist and afterwards drove south to visit Austria where I worked as a ski coach in the mid-1970s. I was lucky enough to work on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier, a year-around ski destination for tourists and National Ski Teams from around the world. At that time, one could ski everyday of the year.
In 1976 the glacier was receding, but no one seemed concerned. Last fall there was no snow on the mountain, which was unheard of in previous years. Not only was the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier was gone, but there is no longer any year-round skiing in the entire country. In fact, all the glaciers in Austria have vanished. Maybe "climate change" is real despite the bombastic ramblings of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and friends. Are Americans really that short-sighted? Are we in denial or are we just plain stupid?
We humans are merely passengers on the spaceship Earth. We produce nothing important for a healthy planet, but certainly spare no expense at taking what we need and then some. We are the ultimate planetary narcissists.
We're doing a fantastic job at killing off as much of the spaceship's crew as we can. The organisms, or crew that clean our air, water and produce our food seem to be expendable. Much like the passengers on the ill-fated Titanic, we appear to continue to dance in the ship's ballroom, while the ship sinks. In our case, it is not an iceberg that will bring us down; it's us. If we continue to kill off the bees, bacteria, fish, plankton, worms and creatures that keep our spaceship running, we will indeed sink ourselves.
I, for one will head below deck and try to save the crew.
To the dancers I say, "Enjoy your last dance!"
As I drove along the Autobahn through Germany I could not ignore the fact that, unlike most Americans, the Germans seem to "get it." Thousands of windmills line the Autobahn. Roofs are covered with solar panels. Toxic nuclear power plants are vanishing. The entire country seems to be becoming part of the solution, not part of the problem.
Germany is no longer fighting the revolution; they are trying to govern it. I am sure they will make mistakes along the way, but at least they are trying. Here in America we are lost. Corporations and government continue to send us to the dance floor and not below deck to the engine-room.
Maybe Americans' sense of individual freedom gets in the way of acting to save the species. Maybe it's time to at least take a look at the reality that we can all keep the faith of individual freedom, and consider greater good at the same time. Maybe it's time to put the health of our existence in front of the pleasure and greed of the individual. What a concept.
Sure, it's more fun to be a passenger than a crew member, but all that fun leads to a lot of waste. Without earthworms, there could be no humans.
History is written by those who win, so only time will tell who the winners will be. I bet we will not be labeled as "revolutionaries" or "terrorists" but as heroes and visionaries. In 500 years, if there are any humans around to write history, then we will have won not only the revolution, we will have achieved a sustainable way that life on earth can not only continue but prosper.
Please join us. The crew is worth saving. Without them, we're goners.
Follow Peter Jay Brown on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Confessionsfilm