Archive for the ‘Movies/Documentaries’ Category

2085541144_b925053054_mThis weekend I have been completely engrossed in watching The Crash Course, which is Chris Martensen’s best attempt to explain exactly how we got into this economic crisis. 

While The Crash Course is divided into small video sections of 3-18 minutes each, the whole thing runs just over 3 hours. We had it on DVD and watched the whole thing from beginning to end. While I already knew many of the themes in this presentation (Economic slump, Peak Oil, Environmental Problems, Baby Boomer Retirement, World Overpopulation), I found The Crash Course  an excellent way of summarizing it all and showing how they all relate.  

I’ve been dedicated to downshifting during the last few months, but somehow becoming aware of all this information has made the task more imperative and urgent for me. As I digest all of this more fully, I’m sure I’ll share my thoughts over the coming weeks and months.

If any of you have already seen this presentation, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photo by: azrainman


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Earlier this week, Hubby and I attended a local presentation on Electric Vehicles by an affiliate of the Electric Auto Association (EAA). Hubby is quite keen to learn how to convert an ordinary motor vehicle into an electric car, and I went along as an interested observer. While we don’t need a second car while we are living here in the USA, we both think it will make a great project for when we return to Australia. As luck would have it, we found out that there is a course running later this year which will provide hubby with two weeks of hands on experience in conducting the conversion. I think he’s just a little bit excited about getting his hands dirty again.

who-killed-the-electric-carSome time last year we watched the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car. Much of what we learned in that movie was discussed at this weeks presentation, so I thought I’d provide a quick overview.

The movie deals with the history of the electric car, mostly focusing on the General Motors EV1 which was made available for lease in Southern California after the California Air Resources Board passed the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate in 1990. The movie also looks at the implications for air pollution, environmentalism, Middle East politics and global warming.

The film details the California Air Resources Board’s reversal of the mandate after lawsuits from automobile manufacturers, the oil industry and the George W. Bush administration.

The film discusses some of the reasons that the auto and oil industries worked to kill off the electric car and explores the future of automobile technologies including a deeply critical look at hydrogen vehicles and an upbeat discussion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle technologies. ~Wiki

California is now planning to re-introduce a regulation mandating more highly fuel-efficient vehicles. This could come into force as soon as the federal government grants the state a waiver from less-stringent national standards. The rule would require automakers to produce vehicles that cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016, resulting in an average vehicle fuel-efficiency of 35.7 miles per gallon – far higher than the current federal standard of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.3 mpg for SUVs and light trucks.

The rule had been delayed by the Bush administration since 2005 but on Monday, President Obama ordered his environmental officials to immediately review California’s regulation, strongly hinting that he would like to allow the state and 13 others to move forward with stricter emissions standards.

It’s quite exciting to be living in California at this time. I truly hope we see the comeback of the electric car in the near future. It would be nice to live without the constant smog.


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Yesterday Hubby and I sat down and watched Escape from Suburbia which is the second documentary from director Greg Greene. Greg presents a sobering exploration of what the second half of the Oil Age has in store for us. He examines how declining world oil production has already begun to affect modern life in North America. He does this this by following three groups of people on their personal quest for answers and he does well to balance expert scientific opinion with more personal interviews. This excellent documentary asks the tough questions: Are we approaching Peak Oil now? What are the controversies surrounding our future energy options? Why are a growing number of specialists and citizens skeptical of these options? What are ordinary people across North America doing in their own communities to prepare for Peak Oil? And what will we as individuals do as energy prices skyrocket and the Oil Age draws to a close?

Honestly this is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen on this issue. Afterwards, I immediately jumped on the internet to see if I could find a local group who are discussing these issues. I need to learn more and I want to find out what other people are doing in their lives to prepare for this change which will no doubt occur in my lifetime.

Check out the trailer on YouTube

Can anyone else recommend any other excellent sources of information along these lines?

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On the weekend we watched the documentary called WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price. This documentary takes a look into the everyday lives of families struggling to fight the Goliath that is WAL-MART. 

When I arrived in the US, I had heard general grumblings about the company and some of their practices, but I must confess I was ignorant of the details until I watched this movie and did a little research of my own. From the movie it seems that WM is well known for persistent, and often illegal, anti-union activity and that many of the stores are purposefully under-staffed. Many WM employees are on public assistance of some kind. It amazes me that such a rich company will not pay it’s employees enough to live on. WM sells products from Chinese sweatshops, but sadly I suspect that many companies throughout the world over are doing this to improves their bottom line. I truly feel for the sweatshop workers who really have no alternative and no recourse to improve their conditions.

What I found particularly sad (and I’ve seen it all across the US since being here) is the loss of competitors as these mega-stores move into town. The soul of small towns seems to have disappeared and to me it feels like I can visit any town in America and nothing would distinguish it from any other town. Every one of them has the same chain restaurants and fast food, and very rarely do you find a town full of thriving Mom-and-Pop stores. Of course there are exceptions where a town has consciously chosen to keep big corporations out. When I find a town like this I choose to return again and again.

Recently I’ve become more aware of the effect big corporations have on society, and to be honest, it concerns me. Is this trend going to continue? I certainly plan to read more about it, and would really appreciate any recommendations for places to find good information.

I personally will not be shopping at WAL-MART and intend to do more research into other companies before I decide to patronize them.

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Last week we watched The Bucket List on DVD again. For those that haven’t seen it, it’s about two strangers who meet each other in hospital, where they are both told they have only months to live. They decide that there are things in life that they would like to do and see before they kick the bucket, and they commence a journey around the world to see all the big sights like the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids. Their travels are really only part of the journey they are on, and both make some big realisations in the process.

While this movie inspires me to create a bucket list of my own (I have one, but it’s in my head) what really hits me is is that most of us don’t know how long we have left. Knowing this, if we have big plans, why would we put them off? Why not live like we have 6 months left: Make up with lost loved ones, tell people we love them, see those things we must see, experience as much as we can within our means, and leave a legacy to be proud of.

I think that being reminded of our own mortality ensures that we don’t get complacent with our dreams. There is no better time to pursue them than now.

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Last night we watched the 2006 documentary called God Grew Tired of Us. It’s about the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of some 25,000 young men and boys who have fled the war in Sudan since the 1980’s. It follows three of the boys on their journey as they escape across East Africa, spend close to a decade in a refuge camp in Kenya and finally move to the United States.

At the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, the film won both the “Grand Jury Prize: Documentary” and the “Audience Award” in the “Independent Film Competition: Documentary” category.

What I got most from the movie was how much we take modern day conveniences for granted. It was amazing to watch these young men learn how to turn on a light, flush a toilet, struggle with an escalator for the first time and make sense of meat and potatoes that comes in a package. It was truly eye opening and convinces me more that we need to stop taking this all for granted. It was also truly heartbreaking to watch them try to retain their cultural identity in their new home country. They came to America with hopes and dreams of making it so they could help their family and friends left back in the camps. They become saddened and despondent as they realise that life in their new country is so busy that is does not allow time to spend with loved ones. There really is a powerful message in this documentary about what is important in life.

Although I’ve travelled to many developing countries throughout the world, I haven’t yet been to southern or eastern africa. I would dearly love to be able to spend some time volunteering in this troubled region.

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