Welcome to the sixth issue of PITCH.
“How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How do we dance when our world is turning?”
- Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning
You might remember the Australian band Midnight Oil’s hit song during the ’80s called Beds Are Burning. Two decades later, it’s been rerecorded We-Are-The-World-style to become an anthem of sorts for the climate change movement. Ever since I heard the remixed version a few weeks ago, I’ve been repeatedly singing—to myself, I want to assure you—the lyrics above. I’ve always liked the song, but I think it got stuck in my head because of my own sleeplessness recently.
My insomnia was partly caused by our Mountainfilm event in Aspen in August. Two of our featured guests were artist Chris Jordan and activist Tim DeChristopher. In a powerful session at the Wheeler Opera House, both men forcefully framed the enormous issues of climate and consumption, then emotionally implored the audience to do everything possible to turn this Titanic around before it hits the (melted) iceberg.
Of course I wasn’t unaware of these issues. In fact, thanks to my perch on the S.S. Mountainfilm, I’m regularly swamped by a tidal wave of information about everything from ocean acidification to modern-day slavery to the extinction crisis (our 2010 symposium theme). As I like to say, I know a little about a lot. The problem is there’s very little good news and lots of bad—at least from what I see in the Mountainfilm universe.
So I ask myself what am I personally doing to right this horrific good news/bad news discrepancy? Chris Jordan’s pouring his heart into making trenchant artworks: Check out his essential new pieces from Midway Island of Albatross. I think about them several times a day. Tim DeChristopher could go to jail for monkey-wrenching an oil and gas auction last December, yet he says he has no regrets because his actions saved 23,000 acres from drilling. Their efforts make my own commitment to recycle, compost, etc. seem insignificant. Look, I’m proud of my role at Mountainfilm because I know we’ve had our own Domino effect on several levels, but given the gravity of what’s at stake, it’s simply not enough. After all, the beds are still burning, and there’s so much work to be done—and done now.
One thing I plan to do—and hope you will consider—is participating in the international day of climate action tomorrow (Saturday, October 24), which was created by 2009 festival guest Bill McKibben and has been designed to put pressure on the negotiators at the UN Copenhagen conference on climate change. And they need to be pressured because a recent headline in the New York Times was “Hopes Fade for Comprehensive Climate Treaty.” Everyone I know who is on the front lines of this battle believes that if there is a large and loud turnout Saturday, it could have a real impact.
Impact. It’s a word I use a lot wondering whether we as Mountainfilm –or me personally–are having enough impact on the essential issues of our time. I’m not sure I’ll answer this question by marching across the Brooklyn Bridge at noon on Saturday, but might as well try. If you’re in NYC, let me know. If you’re in Telluride, our friends at The New Community Coalition are organizing a bunch of great events, including a screening of the film No Impact Man, which is certainly a conversation starter. If you’re elsewhere, click here, type in your zip code and find something nearby in which you can participate.
Again, I think Midnight Oil said it best:
The time has come
to take a stand
for the earth,
for this land.
Someone who has always taken a stand is the inimitable Katie Lee who turns 90 on Friday, October 23. I saw her in Telluride recently, and she was classic Katie—fierce, funny and just a little bit bit flirty. Happy birthday, Katie. You’ve inspired us at Mountainfilm. And from The Yes Men to The Cove filmmakers to James Balog, I hope people in this issue of PITCH do the same for you.
Festival Director, Mountainfilm
My goodness, The Yes Men have been busy. First, these “culture jammers” hijacked the New York Post, putting out a fake edition of the famed tabloid that was, ironically enough, full of completely true content about climate change. The headline, “We’re Screwed” in enormous type referred to New York City’s own reports on global warming.
Last week, they posed as representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is waging a fierce fight against any climate change legislation. Yes Man Andy Bichlbaum, pretending to be a Chamber spokesman, announced at the National Press Club in Washington that the Chamber was reversing its position on climate change. This significant news was picked up by Reuters, Fox News and CNBC, but the most exciting drama occurred at the press conference when the real spokesman for the Chamber showed up.
Tim DeChristopher’s legal case is starting to wind its way through the federal court system. In a hearing in front of a federal judge in late September, his legal team argued that they want to use the necessity defense, which operates from the principal that his act of monkey-wrenching was necessitated by the onset of climate change. You can read more about his story in a prominent piece in the New York Times (and please take a close look at the jacket Tim is wearing in the photo).
Tim DeChristopher and the Yes Men, who met at Mountainfilm in May, are collaborating on a new endeavor called BeyondTalk.net. The idea behind this website is to get at least 10,000 people to agree to be arrested in climate change protests. They write, “As surely as apartheid and segregation were ended by non-violent civil disobedience, climate policy will change, too.” So far, they are nearly halfway to their goal, and according to the New York Times, there are many others around the world who are willing to undergo arrest to stop global warming.
More impact. The Cove, which played at Mountainfilm in Telluride and in Aspen, ends with its main character, Ric O’Barry (the star of the TV show Flipper), saying that all he wants to do is stop the slaughter of dolphins in this particular cove in Taiji, Japan. He adds that if we can’t stop this relatively small—and fixable issue—how will we deal with the larger problems we have to face? Who knows how we’ll do with the larger issues, but thanks to the committed work of Louie Psihoyos, Joe Chisholm and many others who risked arrest and worse, the dolphins of Taiji were not killed this migratory season. Some were pulled out for Sea World-like shows, but the mass dolphin murder (for their meat) was suspended because of the international pressure that resulted from the film. Taiji’s sister city in Australia, severed its ties, and the film just had its Japanese premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival. The screening was sold out.
We want to thank Paul Lehman and the other hosts at our Chicago fundraiser last week. With our presenting sponsor, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent, we presented a stellar tour show with talks by Jim Whittaker and Ed Viesturs the following night.
We regularly take Mountainfilm on the road, but we had never presented such an ambitious off-site show as the one that took place at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen in August. Some of the guests we had in town included Jim Whittaker and Ed Viesturs, Big River Men Borut and Martin Strel, Rock Prophecies star Robert Knight and director John Chester, Ashanti Witherspoon from The Farm: Ten Down, Surfing 50 States dudes, Stefan Hunt and Jonno Durrant, and mountaineer Hilaree O’Neill, who missed Telluride because she was having a baby. A lot of people came up and told me that “Aspen needed this. Thank you for bring Mountainfilm here.” The local paper, The Aspen Times, wrote a wonderful piece about the effort. Thank you to our partners at the Wheeler who put on a great show.