Tag Archives: climate change

Extinction Rebellion

31 Aug

Extinction Rebellion ecology group recruiting for fiercer action on climate change concerns

 

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Around town there’s Green Cambridge and Livable Streets helping advocate for a more environmentally friendly coexistence between human, nature and urban landscapes. For some, that’s not enough. Welcome to Extinction Rebellion Massachusetts, an environmental group that feels not enough is being done about human-triggered climate change. The fledgling network of chapters throughout the state – Cambridge so far hosts the largest, organizers say, because it may also be the first in the country – extends a 2018 London-founded organization that showed its strength through street protests this spring and summer.

Some of the group’s goals, such as “legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero,” echo that of plans adopted by many cities and towns. There are bigger demands, however, such as a “national Citizens Assembly to oversee” government.

Extinction Rebellion is enigmatic; its media outreach organizer spoke anonymously about plans to launch a Red Rebel Brigade (red-robed protesters reminiscent of the recent remake of “Suspiria,” if the dancers donned Guy Fawkes makeup) like the ones that made an attention-grabbing splash during those London campaigns. Outreach and recruitment are the primary focus, the representative said, with a “Flood the Seaport” event at which the group will “peacefully disrupt business” slated for Sept. 27.

First comes the “Diagonal Life Circus and The Normality Rebellion Pageant,” the year’s free Bread and Puppet Theater show at 3 p.m. Sunday on Cambridge Common, near Harvard Square, where the Extinction Rebellion will set up a mobile recruitment center. A Red Brigade launch discussion is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Caffè Nero, 589 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square. Both events are open to the public.

Aquarela

29 Aug

‘Aquarela’: Stunning environmental images from Kossakovsky might leave you gasping

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Had you asked me about four weeks ago, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” would have been the definitive must-see-on-the-big-screen movie. Why? Well, Robert Richardson’s lush era-illuminating cinematography, for one thing, and the amazing sets that re-create 1969 Los Angeles. But the answer changed last week after I drank in a screening of Victor Kossakovsky’s commanding contemplation about water, “Aquarela.” It was an outright obliteration with all the shock and awe that only Mother Nature can deliver when at her extreme-weather fiercest.

“Aquarela” doesn’t have a narrative arc in the conventional sense. It’s more a mounting experience that washes over you. Tagging it as a hybrid of a Godfrey Reggio film (“Koyaanisqatsi”) and an ICA visual art installation doesn’t quite do it justice, but it gets you close. There’s little human dialogue and never any location tags as it slips seamlessly from Siberia to Greenland, California and ultimately, the breathtaking Angel Falls in Venezuela – with a harrowing few moments inside the wrath of Hurricane Irma. Much of the soundtrack too comes from mama nature herself: the perilous pop and crack of vast spans of ice, towering waves crashing down and the harsh, whistling whip of the wind; to take the edginess of this beautifully frightening omnipotence higher, the punk-metal music by the aptly named group Apocalyptical (imagine a Gwar and Nine Inch Nails collaboration) digs into your temples at turns. It’s almost too much, but that’s part of the point. 

The film begins with its most placid, yet harrowing sequence as team of Siberians retrieve a car from beneath an ice-capped lake using just old-fashioned wood and rope tackle. It’s riveting, though a tedious task to observe as they work in near silence, often lying prone to peer through the thick crystal sheet and occasionally crashing through the surface with nonchalant regard. We learn those who drove the car escaped through the hatch – driving on the ice is how these guys get around. Later we see from afar another car cruising the ice, and it too drops from sight. The ensuing scene will not soon leave you.

The film mostly showcases its subject’s majestic indomitableness in aesthetically wondrous framings that are at once hypnotic and eye popping – an exception being a look at those pinned down by Irma and fighting to hold on amid devastating mudslides and massive flooding. There’s no question the film’s a dispatch underscoring climate change and the need for us to clean up our act. Hard to argue, and done so in subtly contemplative fashion the way Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s 2013 locally shot documentary, “Leviathan” and Werner Herzog’s 2007 cold dive “Encounters at the End of the Word” so elegantly did. 

The real power in “Aquarela” is Kossakovsky‘s patiently observant cinematography, which captures some moments that even seem implausible – yet there they are. Kossakovsky shot the film at 96 frames, something of a broadening trend. It’s a true spectacle and wonderment that should taken in its intended natural format.

Casting Doubt

21 Mar

The documentary “Merchants of Doubt,” based on the 2010 book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, targets the naysayers of climate change, shining a light on the corporations that employ scientists denying climate change to misdirect and obfuscate in order to protect the bottom line. The book’s authors argue that this practice started with Big Tobacco. When the health risks of smoking became widely documented by the medical and scientific communities, tobacco responded by conducting their own studies, putting scientists in their pocket, conjuring up counter-evidence and most importantly, casting doubt.

“It’s easy to poke holes,” Oreskes, a professor of history of science at Harvard said in an interview. “Real science is hard.” And it seems especially arcane when it comes to the state of our environment’s health. “Global warming and climate change are very complex,” she explains. “There’s a lot of science behind it, so it’s not so easy to explain, and scientists are not the best at explaining. That’s why it’s easy for a ‘merchant of doubt’ to hold up a snowball in Congress.” (Oreskes will take part in a Q&A at the Kendall Square Cinema after the 7:10 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday.)

Naomi Oreskes, author of the book "Merchants of Doubt." (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

The reference to Sen. Jim Inhofe’s now-infamous gimmick of tossing a snowball at his fellow lawmakers to “prove” that global warming’s a myth is one of the many face-palming gems in “Merchants of Doubt.” The documentary is directed by Richard Kenner, best known for turning a few people vegan with“Food, Inc,” the raw and edgy examination of the mass livestock and meatpacking industries, which was Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary in 2010. Oreskes and Conway’s book singles out the squad of well-paid scientist and academics, referred to contemptuously as the “gang of four,” who have been doing the bidding of big business since the cigarette lobby of the 1960s. The movie focuses in on one of the four, the aging physicist Fred Singer, as well as on the Koch brothers and Marc Morano, a mouthpiece for conservative interests, who, while lacking discernible academic cred (his CV lists ties to Rush Limbaugh and Inhofe), compels with the kind of winning charisma and unshakable confidence that would make Ronald Reagan smile.

Kenner’s environmental illumination isn’t quite as biting or tightly tied as “Food, Inc,” and while, comparisons to “An Inconvenient Truth,” 2007’s Oscar winner,  and “The 11th Hour” are inevitable, “Merchants of Doubt” walks its own path and confidently so. It’s less about trying to convince us that global warming is happening, more about showing that there are people out there trying to actively deny it for monetary gain. Kenner punctures the decade-spanning narrative with interludes of a wry magician (Jamy Ian Swiss who is also in “An Honest Lair” also opening in Boston at the same time) wowing a small crown with deft sleight-of-hand. The cutaways from the “merchants” to the acts of chicanery draw a barbed parallel to the work Morano and Co. do as they spin and deflect for “deep carbonized” special interests.

Marc Morano, a leading climate change skeptic, featured in "Merchants of Doubt" (Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

And to Inhofe’s point, Oreskes understands the lazy logic employed there and points to the shifting jet stream as the polar ice caps melt. The pummeling that Boston took this winter and our current all-time snowfall record helps underscore the point. “People finally are starting to get it,” Oreskes says, perking up on the Boston subject, “that it’s not just a singular freak occurrence and that these weather pattern disruptions are the result of climate change and global warming.”

Well before the movie, Oreskes’s work researching scientific consensus on climate change and advocacy had been a touchstone for many, especially those who had embraced the notion of “going green” as something more than just a lifestyle choice. “Scientific debates are settled by evidence, not arguments,” says Quinton Zondervan, president of Green Cambridge and a fan of Oreskes’s book. “At the end of the day,” he poses in a vein akin to Oreskes, “people need to ask themselves a simple question: Am I making the world a better place, or am I contributing to its destruction?”   Continue reading