Socal.com Review by Kristen Lepore

Written by Kristen Lepore.


By Kristen Lepore

“Well why hasn’t this been done before?” asks Bernie Karl in Peter Byck’s Carbon Nation. It’s a valid question and one that viewers can’t stop asking themselves in this documentary that delves into how we as Americans can position ourselves as leaders in the climate crisis. The film has the tone of a MTV reality series but is packed with enough substance for a college professor—making it one that’s easy to relate to and hard to ignore.

Carbon Nation ponders why it makes sense socially, economically and politically to be green (for lack of a better word). Coined as a geothermal pioneer and crazy Alaskan in the film, Karl is one of many characters featured in the documentary who is so passionate and pragmatic in his greening the globe that it’s both inspiring and depressing. While the movie does an adequate job of showing what solutions are available on a micro and macro level, it also sheds light on our nation’s lack of urgency and overall ignorance.

From wind farms to biofuel replacement to organic yogurt, the solutions presented in Carbon Nation are vast and taken from leaders spread all over the country. Not surprisingly, the movie took over three years to film—much of which was spent collecting research and generating facts—and this is obvious while watching it. With Schoolhouse Rock-type infographics in abundance, Carbon Nation struggles to break down complex terms and ideas. Although a good attempt, the film is more influential through its characters and storytelling than metrics and definitions.

The adolescent tone and high-energy music helps the film maintain an inspiring feel. Like its infographics, its sequence of scenes is very calculated. After boggling viewers’ mind with an overload of facts and unnerving information, it rages happy music while offering some great resolutions. Yet one of its most enduring attributes is its incorporation of everyday people. Take Van Jones, founder of Green For All, who is helping parolees rebuild their lives with green jobs such as installing solar panels. His program is not only giving these individuals a second chance, but the solar panels are helping low-income families save money.

While “retrofitting a nation” may initially cost more, the film argues that it will eventually save us a ton. Economics is a common theme throughout and one that is both convincing and timely given the state of our economy. But besides offering long-term solutions such as alternative energy sources like algae, wind and geothermal, Carbon Nation also lists a series of tips that audiences can start incorporating into their lives today—with little or no cost. There are so many solutions, in fact, that viewers may want to bring a notepad to the theater.

Narrated by former CBS news anchor Bill Kurtis and produced by a slew of individuals who have an interest in energy efficiency, the film is surprisingly not patronizing and rather eye-opening. In contrast to the everyday folk, Carbon Nation also features some of our nation’s most educated and wealthy individuals: CEO of Virgin Group, Richard Branson; former director of Central Intelligence, R. James Woolsey; chairman and CEO of Exelon Corporation, W. John Rowe; chairman, president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm, Gary Hirshberg; and author, reporter and columnist, Thomas L. Friedman.

Although at times audiences may feel like they’re preparing for a college exam, Carbon Nation transmits a positive outlook on climate control solutions. What makes this film different than others is that it doesn’t care whether or not viewers believe humans are the cause of climate change. Instead, it examines how we can better our environment and, in turn, create jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign resources and ultimately create a cleaner earth for generations to come.

Carbon Nation is now playing in Los Angeles at Laemmle Sunset 5.

For more information, visit the film’s official Web site.

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