Directed by Peter Byck
Produced by Byck, Craig Sieben, Karen Weigert, Artemis Joukowsky & Chrisna van Zyl
Written by Byck, Eric Driscoll, Matt Weinhold & Weigert
Released by Clayway Media
USA. 82 min. Not Rated
Somewhere between classroom learning aid and Dateline special, Carbon Nation is another graphic-happy and prescriptive documentary about our flailing environment. This latest iteration of celluloid finger wagging at apathetic polluters tackles the frightening state of global carbon emissions, but with an unusual emphasis on what we’re doing right and how easy it is to do much more. More unusual still is the nonjudgmental approach to climate-change-naysayers, who, the film suggests, don’t need to believe in man-made global warming to cozy up to the green initiatives at their disposal.
A review of American wind farms, refrigerator recycling plants, low-income green job programs, among many other eco-friendly ventures, comes up with a double-pronged conclusion: not only are they good for the earth, they are also good for business. A factory can significantly boost its profits by recycling the heat it emits, funneling it back into the plant as a free source of power. Taping into geothermal energy, as is already being done in Alaska, can result in one of the cheapest sources of energy around. The visionary behind a geothermal power plant, Bernie Karl, doesn’t believe in man-made climate change, but he does believe in saving money, and, when it comes to the water bubbling beneath our feet, green = cheap.
Though the film is littered with menacing predictions of what will happen in the near future if nothing is done to curb carbon emissions (floods, droughts, the works), it, in its infinite pragmatic wisdom, appeals to our greed more than our conscience. Over and over again we see examples of how renewable energy is the most frugal alternative. And though this sometimes hints more at a debt consolidation infomercial than documentary, this call to arms may in fact be far more effective.
But if green alternatives are as economical, easy to implement, and, oh yes, imperative to our planet’s survival, why do they still represent such a small percentage of our energy sources? While Carbon Nation casts a wide net over environmental problems and solutions, it steers clear of these hypotheses, never implicating corporate interests and powerful lobbyists as the critical roadblock to change. And maybe this is a good thing because the choir already has energy-star light bulbs, and at this critical hour, it’s better to preach without a lurking liberal agenda scaring away possible converts. Yana Litovsky