Two weeks ago, fellow Treehugger George Spyros and I had the opportunity to catch a sneak preview of Leonardo Dicaprio's The 11th Hour. Organized by Project Greenhouse, the screening was appropriately held outdoors and under the stars at Marders, an organic nursery in Long Island. The film's mantra, "Consume Less Live More." Ironically, an adjacent shopping center blared signage for Gap, Yankee Candle Co, and T.J. Maxx.
A reference to the very last moment when change is possible, The 11th Hour, explores humanity's past, present, and future: how we came to meet this desperate tipping point, how we live and impact our earth's ecosystems, and what we must do to ensure a worthwhile future.
The film is a collection of vivid imagery accompanied by commentary and meditation from an impressive collection of political leaders, designers, and visionaries—a proverbial team of environmental rock stars. Cast members include former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, scientist Stephen Hawking, and sustainable design authority William McDonough . . . to name a few. In total, the film features 50 independent voices, bringing expertise, experience, and emotion to the crisis at hand. Their words are informative, powerful, and inspiring—perhaps some of the great quotes of our time. For more on the film, the cast of experts and their words, jump to the next page. The 11th Hour is essentially a film about man's relationship to earth. Filmmakers and sisters Nadia and Leila Conners (Global Warning, Water Planet) gathered an impressive range of credible voices to speak to the history and future of the human species. The cast of experts includes scientists, designers, historians, advocates, psychologists, and thinkers.
"The big rupture came in the 1800s, with the steam engine, the fossil fuel age, the industrial revolution," says Nathan Gardels, author, editor and Media Fellow of the World Economic Forum. "This was a great rupture from earlier forms and rhythms of life, which were generally regenerative. What happened after the industrial revolution was that nature was converted to a resource and that resource was seen as, essentially, eternally abundant. This led to the idea, and the conception behind progress which is: limitless growth, limitless expansion."
"Finding coal here, and little bit of oil there, and between that and the agricultural revolution, slowly our population crept up until we hit our fist one billion people," says Thom Hartmann, a best-selling author and progressive radio talk show host. "It didn't take us a hundred thousand years to go from one billion to two billion. Our second billion only took us a hundred and thirty years. We hit two billion people in 1930. Our third billion took only 30 years, 1960. It's amazing when you think about it. When John Kennedy was inaugurated, there were half as many people on the planet as there are today."
"As we go forward, with technology even more powerful than before, we have magnified the presence of the human race inside the ecology, therefore we can do vastly more damage with our technological prowess than we could before," says Nathan Gardels. "And we have to be even more cautious."
"Seventy countries in the world no longer have any intact or original forests," comments Tzeporah Berman, Program Director for ForestEthics, "And here in the United States, ninety five percent of our old growth forests are already gone."
Wangari Maathai, who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, adds: "In my own part of the part of the world, I keep telling people, 'Let us not cut trees irresponsibly. Let us not destroy especially the forested mountains. Because if you destroy the forests on these mountains, the rivers will stop flowing and the rains will become irregular and the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation. Now the problem is, people don't make those linkages."
As humanity continues to detach itself from nature and we head further and further into the 11th hour, I strongly recommend you see this film. Bring your children too. Educate them on the problems they will inherit and the necessary solutions they will be forced to take on. I also encourage you to visit the film's website for a full cast of experts and their fascinating and inspiring bios.