sábado, 28 de marzo de 2009

Crazy Plots to Save the World

Many forward thinkers have agreed that the challenges of the next half-century will be great ones, and they will likely center on a couple of critical areas. Of course, food is always an issue for the greater fraction of people on the planet, but clean unpolluted water is about to become a very problematic – and expensive – issue as well. A third area about which I have heard little from the scientific community is ‘staying warm’ – and since one of the basic necessities of life is ‘staying warm and dry,’ I am concerned that not enough brain-power is being put into keeping people warm without further warming the planet.

Long ago, I wanted to get people interested in bringing troubling societal issues to the members of Mensa, the high-IQ society. I thought – and still think – that those eggheads could help us find elegant solutions to some of our toughest problems. I mean, they have all that knowledge, right? Problem was, the men and women of Mensa didn’t seem to want to tackle hard problems like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, or saving the planet. Like tired and lonely people everywhere, they were more interested in connecting with other smart people socially, as in dating or in special interest groups (which they called SIGs).

So I wandered away from Mensa, leaving them to their puzzlers and parties. But I still think about trying to save the planet, save our culture, save our way of life, save the lives of those unfortunate enough to need our help. To do any of those things, we need some innovative thinking – we need to approach the same old problem in a brand-new way. And a collection of brilliant minds is a crucial prerequisite to removing the obstacles to the creative development of innovative thinking. And, of course, I can’t do it all alone. So I turn to you, the filmmakers on the cutting edge, to be part of that collection of minds – since filmmakers always have been (and continue to be) innovators, inventors, and visionaries.

And maybe just focusing a camera on a problem is a good start at getting people to think about that problem. We can't fix what we haven’t identified, and we can’t identify what we don’t know about. So for some of us, at least, there is just the work of pointing the issues out to others, so that they can learn about those situations that can harm us or those like us. Also, people want to know that there is hope, and documentaries serve that function, among many others.

Docs can inform, educate, and persuade. They can mean the difference between a deep understanding and the indifference of ignorance. Perhaps most important, documentaries can inspire. So here are some thoughts for documentaries, in case any of you filmmaking geniuses have run out of challenging and engaging ideas:

1. Innovative thinking about Energy Conservation: Why do we have every one of those city lights on all night long? Civic lighting expends more than half of the energy used in the US, and we could get buy with a lot fewer lights. I’m not talking about making the streets dark and unsafe, but we could install switches on about half the lights in any string, and alternate them all night long – or at least in the wee hours of the morning when most people are in bed.

2. Innovative thinking about Intended-waste Products: Why do we have bright white paper napkins, cups, bowls, and plates? The bleaching of paper accounts for a huge percentage of toxic waste going into rivers and our oceans, and we really don’t need bright white items that we are going to use once and then throw away. What are the biases against grey or tan disposable napery and plates? And those awful disposable diapers (though the rumor is that disposables are actually more planet-friendly than washing cloth diapers) – why are they white? For that matter, why is toilet paper white?

3. Innovative thinking about the Ramifications of Oil Drilling: How about getting groups of university students in different disciplines to deal with the deleterious effects of oil drilling – both to the land and to the very fragile ecosystems of the oceans. Big Oil drills for oil in the middle of farmland, if that’s where the oil is – and oil drilling is a dirty business. They (and we) hardly consider the effect of the runoff into the water table and into the soil in which farmers grow our food. How is all that oil affecting our health? And how can it be stopped? And while we’re talking oil fields, how can we stop those flares of flame that burn continually in the fields? It’s called the burn-off

4. Innovative thinking about Staying Warm and Dry: It seems that everyone is talking about global warming, but a much greater problem is how to keep people warm – heating is probably the major issue confronting us in the 21st Century. This is perhaps the most profound need of the entire human race, no matter where they live (even hot climates get cold sometimes). The whole of history has included the continual attempt to mitigate weather, creating warm and dry conditions in which to thrive. For atmospheric reasons, several long-time answers must now be discarded: wood fires, coal, and oil. Natural gas is much cleaner, but it will last only so long. Going underground, though costly and unattractive to most folks, that may be the answer – issues to be addressed include heating, leakage of surface water, disposal of waste, recycling air and gas byproducts, lack of windows and light, mass-transit elevators and logistics of moving people to the surface and back.

5. More innovative thinking about Staying Warm: Deep-strata mines may provide a solution, since the earth’s crust gets hotter by one degree for every thousand feet that you descend – by opening up large enough vents, we may be able to use the earth’s heat to replace much of the surface burning that we are doing.

6. Innovative thinking about Water and Water Rights: Water shortages and pollution will be major themes in the coming decades. Who is working on the potential of using seawater for most uses? And are there projects for reclaiming seawater (desalinization)? What new products are on the horizon to shift consumer water usage? And who owns the water anyway? That’s a question to which most of us won’t like the answer.

So there you have it – some ideas about coming up with ideas. A list of things that need addressing, and perhaps we can point a camera at them and thus put them in front of an audience or two. If you can do something with these ideas (and have the wit and strength to chase them with camera), you have my blessings.

David Hakim is an assistant director, producer, and publicity expert who developed campaigns for every major Hollywood studio and handled publicity for the Motion Picture Academy. Find him in the Reel Directory online: www.reeldirectory.com.

All material copyright 2008 David Hakim and may not be duplicated - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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