New Documentary Film on Climate Change Supports Communities Combatting Fossil Fuel Expansion

Posted March 23, 2016

MP3 Interview with Josh Fox, Oscar-nominated filmmaker, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

fossilfuel

A coalition of groups called the Sugarshack Alliance, which opposes construction of a fracked gas pipeline through western Massachusetts, held a four-day, 53-mile protest walk, March 17 through 20, through several of the small towns that would be in the pipeline's path. The pipeline, called the Northeast Energy Direct, is being proposed by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company, whose parent company is Kinder Morgan. Its application must be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, by granting a so-called certificate of public convenience and necessity.

On the first night of the walk, 400 people attended the screening of documentary filmmaker Josh Fox's new film, "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can't Change." The event was part of Fox’s "Let Go and Love" tour in which the filmmaker brings his documentary to communities fighting their own battles against fossil fuel companies that exacerbate climate change. Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Fox about his new film before the screening.

JOSH FOX: This is a movie about climate change. It’s really the third and final chapter of the trilogy of environmental films that starts with "Gasland I" and "Gasland II." But this film is much broader and bigger focus than just fracking. It started out being about climate change and the climate crisis, because when you’re working on fossil fuels this is what happens – you end with the climate over and over again, because it is the greatest problem the world has ever known, and it’s primarily fossil fuels that are responsible for it. So this movie, "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change," is really sort of in two halves – the How to Let Go of the World half and the Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change half. I acknowledges how late we are to act right now. James Hansen went in front of the Congress, as a representative of NASA and told us all in 1988 that we were warming the earth. That would have been the moment to start working on this in a huge way. We are now 28 years later and we are in deep, deep trouble with respect to the climate, and many of the things that we acknowledge as some of the worst aspects of climate change, we’re too late to stop.

When we talk about how much we’ve already warmed the earth, when we talk about how all the things that are frozen on earth right now that we need to stay frozen are melting, that the sea levels will rise, that extreme weather gets worse and worse as the atmosphere warms, we’re talking about letting go of the world that we live in now, which is a world based on greed and competition and violence. Climate is going to rewrite the coastal maps; we’re going to lose a lot of our coastal cities. We’re going to lose 30-50 percent of the species on the planet. These are incredibly difficult things to encounter. What we need going forward are the things climate can’t change. Those are our civic values; those are human rights, democracy, community, love, generosity, respect, creativity, innovation – these are things that climate can’t change.

So I think when you see the film, you’ll understand the pit of despair that I went through in making the first part of the film, and then the heights of inspiration that come from meeting all these amazing people all across the earth – the film travels to six continents, 12 different countries – and to meet just absolutely extraordinary people who embody those values and those virtues that are the things climate can’t change that we need to start to base the next phase of civilization on.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You’re doing this tour and going to places; like you’re in Ashfield, Massachusetts right now, where there’s a walk going on to protest a [proposed] fracked gas pipeline here, and I know you’re doing that in a lot of other places. Say a little about your tour.

JOSH FOX: Yeah. We’re in the middle of the Let Go and Love Tour, for "How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change;" that is a fundamental part of our distribution model. Yes, the film will be on HBO at the end of June; yes it will go into theaters for Earth Week around Earth Day in New York and L.A. and other places. But the hallmark of our strategy is to work directly with communities that are on the ground that are fighting fossil fuel infrastructure. For "Gasland" and "Gasland II" that was the fracking fight; for the climate movie that’s every fight – that’s pipelines, compressor stations, power plants, LNG terminals, coal, tar sands, fracked gas, fracked oil, offshore drilling, onshore drilling – all these ways in which the fossil fuel industry is actually expanding at a time when we know we have to move away from fossil fuels. So something like the NED pipeline, which you all are marching against – this is unacceptable. And so is the Constitution pipeline, and the AIM pipeline and the Pilgrim pipelines and the bomb trains. We have to start to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and we have to do it immediately. We can’t use natural gas as a bridge; we know that will bring us way past where we need to be in this worsening climate crisis. So when we’re talking about the tour, it’s going directly to communities that are fighting fossil fuels. So we’re premiering this movie literally in the middle of a protest. This is Day 1 of your 50-mile march over four days. We couldn’t be happier to be doing the movie in this context. Hopefully people are not too tired from marching all day to stay awake during the movie. But if a few of you guys nod off, just wake people back up again. But it’s a two-hour movie; we hope people enjoy it.

BETWEEN THE LINES: The day after Josh Fox’s film screening, 100 walkers arrived at the spot where pipeline opponent and landowner Larry Sheehan encouraged his friend, Will Elwell, to build a full-size replica of Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond cabin, right in the path of the pipeline. Sheehan briefly spoke to the protest walkers at the site of the Thoreau cabin. Will Ellwell, who built the cabin.

LARRY SHEEHAN: When my wife Carol and I bought this old farm over 20 years ago, we were asked to sign a covenant to the title that forbade us from building anything new on these 11 or so acres that we have. The idea was to preserve open space and the rural character of the neighborhood, and we were happy to agree. So then a couple years ago, Tennessee Pipeline came calling with their own plans for our back yard. And we were shocked, of course. It felt like we were betrayed. We were heartbroken, really, and I’m sure many, many others have felt the same way. So when my friend Will Elwell came over and said can he build a replica of the Thoreau cabin here, I said sure. And here we have it. It’s a small, but sturdy little edifice (laughter). It’s strong because it’s more than the sum of its posts and beams. It really represents the will of the people.

WILL ELLWELL: When we build something, we don’t also give the owner risks that they have to deal with. We give them something that’s going to last. With a pipeline, there are so many risks, and the risks are what we have to deal with if this ever goes through. Who gets the rewards? We don’t get the rewards. I don’t see any rewards in it anyway. But we as a community, as a town, as landowners, don’t get the rewards, and the risks are endangerment of the environment, the animals, everything, the whole planet. And I don’t want to get into the common good of the gas pipeline, but it definitely is not a common good for us.

For more information, see "How to Let Go of the World, and Love All The Things Climate Can’t Change" documentary website at howtoletgomovie.com, Facebook.com/NoFrackGasAshfield at SugarShackAlliance.org.

Related Links: