Friday, March 29, 2013

You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one

"Today we have not only an ecological crisis, we also have a kind of story crisis. That is to say there's something very wrong about the way that we understand who we are and our relationship with the earth." -- Continuum trailer

This is a film that needs to be made. This is a story that needs to be told. But best of all, this is a film that will be made because people believe it is a story worth telling.

Planetary Collective has spent the past three years working on Continuum, a feature-length documentary that tells the story of our interconnection with each other, the planet and the universe. Back in February, they put the project on Kickstarter in an attempt to raise enough money to fund the final push through crowd funding. I watched the trailer, fell in love with the film and decided I had to back the project. If all that was needed to make Continuum happen was a little bit of money from a lot of people then I wanted to be one of those people.

I don't know what excites me more: the film itself or the way Kickstarter has the potential to revolutionize how creative projects get funded. It gives citizens the power to support projects they like and it gives the filmmakers, artists and musicians complete control over their projects. It's democratic, it's participatory and it's refreshingly real in an era of manufactured pop stars and Hollywood schlock. We get to help make something great happen and, in return, we get to be part of that greatness.

Here's how the filmmakers describe Continuum on their Kickstarter page:

"We are in the midst of an ecological crisis of an unprecedented scale, with implications not only for mankind's social, economic and political spheres, but for the life system of the planet as a whole.

One of the fundamental factors underlying this crisis is our worldview: the way we see the world around us and our relationships to each other, the planet, and the cosmos as a whole. Our worldview informs our values, behaviour, and way of life in such a way that some environmentalists have declared the environmental crisis to actually be a 'crisis of worldview'. One dominant feature of our ordinary worldview is the misperception that we are separate from each other and the greater systems we are embedded within.

CONTINUUM is a feature-length documentary that explores this sense of separation and its roots in language, perception and our evolution. The journey will take us from the first stirrings of life to the emergence of a global brain; from the complexity and wonder of a single plant cell to the emerging biomimetic technologies that are changing the way we build the future; and from the appearance of modern humans to the planetary crisis we face today."

The filmmakers hope the documentary "will change the way we think as a species -- to stop seeing ourselves as separate from each other, from the planet and the cosmos -- and inspire us to work together to transform our planetary crises."

I can't wait to see this film when it's finished. In the meantime, I highly recommend watching Planetary Collective's first short film Overview -- which explores the perspective-altering phenomenon that many astronauts experience after being in space.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hot off the press

Back when I was a student at Kyoto University's Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, my professor created a newsletter to highlight some of the impressive work being done by faculty and students in our program.

It was a project I was excited to be a part of because the point of the thing was not to be some sort of self-serving, jargon-laden, grant-justifying puff piece. The point of the thing was to be a place where we could share our stories with the wider world -- to shine a light on action both on campus and in the larger community. It was born of a genuine desire to bring our stories beyond the confines of the conference circuit. To build a bridge between scientists and the public.

The newsletter's third issue is now online. Articles cover a wide range of topics, from a forum on how to green university campuses to the role of young people in international biodiversity negotiations to the growing youth movement against nuclear power in Japan. My professor asked me if she could include a condensed version of my blog post on the UN climate change conference in Doha in the newest issue and I was happy to oblige.

It's not the most scintillating newsletter you'll ever read. But communication is a critical part of creating momentum for change and for that I salute it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Awesome Austria

I've been in Germany for exactly one year now and the novelty of being transported to another country, climate and/or geographical zone by train still hasn't worn off. The smallness of Europe and the extensiveness of its rail network continue to amaze.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be here but before I leave I'd like to complete my quest to travel to all nine countries that share a border with Germany, preferably by train. It's not that I have a burning desire to visit Luxembourg or Poland. But I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from making lists and crossing things off them. I also like circuitous challenges. And I like taking the train. Visiting all nine border countries combines the best of all three. The tally so far: Six countries down, three to go. Austria is the latest country scratched off the list.

Not that crossing a conveniently located country off an arbitrary list was the only reason to go to Austria at the end of February. There were other reasons too. Like the Alps, a shitload of snow and a joint birthday celebration.

I had a two-point plan to celebrate my birthday at the end of February. Sergey, who shares the same birthday, had a zero-point plan; he was up for anything. I wanted to trade Bonn's dark, soggy lowlands for somewhere more sunny, snowy and mountainous while, at the same time, setting foot in another German-border-sharing country. Austria was the obvious choice. Having settled on Austria, the next step was to find a place that offered every winter sport you could think of but mostly cross-country skiing. If you type "where in Austria can you find a place that offers every winter sport you can think of but mostly cross-country skiing?" into a Google search, you will not find a match. But if you type "cross-country skiing in Austria" into a Google search, you will find a place called Seefeld in Tirol.

Seefeld in Tirol claims to be the best place for cross-country skiing in all of Europe. Which seems like hyperbole but turns out to be fact. Seefeld in Tirol is located on a high plateau in the Austrian Alps with 279 km of groomed cross-country ski trails (154.3 km of trails for classic skiing and 124.7 km of trails for skate skiing). Basically it was a cross-country-skiing paradise. Which, for reasons I don't understand, seemed to attract a mostly older crowd. Like much older. Like 65+ older. If having an appreciation for silence and solitude on skis makes me old then so be it.

There were five villages within skiing distance so you could leave from Seefeld in the morning, ski all day, stop for lunch at one of the huts along the way, pop out in a different town and take the bus back. (Provided you didn't mind waiting for the bus, which ran only once an hour or sometimes not at all. But being in civilization, you could call a taxi to take you back.)

While skiing in Austria was incredibly beautiful, I wouldn't exactly call it a wilderness experience. The trails weaved in and out of forests but there were huts serving hot food and drinks every five kilometres or so. It was all very civilized. I especially enjoyed the complimentary blankets for coffee drinking.

Next weekend: A little trip to the little country of Luxembourg.