Wednesday, August 22, 2007

11th Hour

I'm interrupting my Good Life series to post about Leonardo DiCaprio's new film, "The 11th Hour." Here's the trailer:

Were you shocked by the polar bear, too?

DiCaprio fortunately has the big bucks to make a film and website that's highly watchable, not only because of the obviously high production value but also because of the nature of the storytelling. The angle he takes is: yes, there is a scientifically irrefutable problem. And that gives our generation an incredible opportunity to solve it. We can be the ones who will be remembered for our ingenuity, our resolve, our morals.

That's a tempting sell, especially to us as the generations who have had to follow the so-called "Greatest" Generation (did you hear the eye-roll there?). But a strong sales pitch is what's needed now. We know our consumer culture and our own participation in it perpetuates environmental degradation. Many of us recycle, some of us reuse goods, but reducing consumption in the first place isn't a notion taking the nation by storm. It's a hard pill to swallow for most folks.

And it's the American way to say, "Hey, I've worked hard all day. I deserve a little fun, so I'm going to buy myself [the XBox, the new shoes, etc.]." (Can I just say it was a little self-flagellation to write "the new shoes" because I am just now developing something of a shoe fetish, because Paloma's little feet are TOO ADORABLE and also for myself because I like how my feet look so much more after pregnancy... oh boy, I'm making myself the bad example here...)

But maybe this is the new American. Maybe it wasn't always this way, when we had more free time (which we really need to protect in our overworked society) and didn't have to buy as much to fill the leisure wells of our souls, and maybe didn't even have such thing as "retail therapy." According to Wikipedia, retail therapy hit the dictionaries in the 80s (surprise!).

There's a lot to analyze here. But maybe the first (well-shod) step is to strongly associate environmental redemption with our own moral redemption, and to place the power of redemption in our own manicured hands. There's conflict there, perhaps even after we make the decision to act. But what DiCaprio's trying to do is inspire us to see this monumental challenge as a monumental opportunity-- to act, yes, but also to shift our thinking. Allowing the everyday person to think like an athlete, like the person who has conditioned for months and now welcomes the chance to face his or her tough competitor.

I don't know that we've 'trained,' exactly, but I do think the time has come for us to accept the fact of our "reluctant superhero" status. We might just save the planet after all.