Drought

“And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.” —King James Bible

The following link will take you to a heart-breaking photo essay in THE ATLANTIC magazine that shows the effects of this summer’s devastating drought. As most of us already know, the drought developed partly due to coal emissions-induced global warming.

We must help our farmers.

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/08/the-drought-of-2012/100360/

29

08 2012

-Coal, +Fracking = BAD IDEA

I’ve been doing a lot of research for a follow up film to DTAC. The journey took me all over the internet, watching videos, reading studies, etc. Yesterday I saw Josh Fox’s GASLAND and had the hell officially scared right outta me. Fracking is the worst thing ever. Just EVER. In a nutshell-although I beg you to see this incredible movie-is that if tracking fluid, which is needed for the extraction of the natural gas and is REALLY REALLY TOXIC, gets into your groundwater, you’ll get really really sick INSTANTLY. This stuff won’t wait.

Anyway, I’m concerned with tracking now because I’m researching WV to see what can replace coal as an economic driver and energy source (but, truly, the economic driver is more important). Well, it turns out, as you can imagine, that natural gas is the resource du jour in Appalachia. Why? Because there’s a HUGE reserve of it underground trapped in a formation called the Marcellus Shale. Hundreds of people are already sick. This needs to stop NOW.

In connection with GASLAND, today, I watched LOW COAL, a 90-minute film about WV coal country that should be seen by all Americans. If we value our right to vote for whatever we want, we must understand that in our connected-and-interdependent society, our actions have consequences far away from our individual homes. What I mean by this is that we must all move against Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking), or Appalachia and all the Americans living in it-those profiled beautifully in LOW COAL-will be gone forever. You can watch LOW COAL for free on their website.

Let’s work together to try and transition coal country to an economy that won’t kill them. To quote the late coal miner’s daughter and clean energy activist, Judy Bonds: “There are no jobs on a dead planet.”

 

02

08 2012

Proposed Coal Plants Nationwide

This is a Google map created by The Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program that shows the 200+ coal plants being proposed nationwide to date:

http://www.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/coal/map/default.aspx

27

07 2012

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

When my brother and I were little, we looked up the longest word in the dictionary. At that time it was “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” the scientific term for Black Lung. How odd  that almost 40 years later I would become obsessed with coal-fired energy production and it’s detrimental effects on public health.

Recently, NPR did a series of stories on a resurgence of Black Lung.

I encourage everyone to read these stories. We are all, every American, responsible for these miners’ lives, as they, in turn, are responsible for ours. The power rests in our voting for measures that promote alternative energy production that can replace coal-production so these folks and their future generations can evolve in health.

 

15

07 2012

“Exert intergenerational responsibility”

The quote in the title comes from the wonderful book on living better than sustainably, “CRADLE TO CRADLE,” by architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the wider view we all need to adopt if we are to save ourselves and future generations.

The book ends by quoting Thomas Jefferson, and it is Jefferson’s quote that strikes me this morning. In a letter to James Madison, Jefferson writes: “The earth belongs…to the living… No man can by natural right oblige the lands he occupied, or the persons who succeeded him in that occupation, to the payment of debts contracted by him. For if he could, he might, during his own life, eat up the usufruct of the lands for several generations to come, and then the lands would belong to the dead, and not to the living.”

It’s the principle of seventh generation espoused by Native Americans, and says that we should act today so as to leave a prosperous Earth behind for our next generations. Such a message was never more necessary than it is now.

01

07 2012

Pause For Station Identification

The plight of any artist at, really, any time, is finding motivation to keep doing what we were put on this earth to do. I got a little nailed with “Why am I doing this????” angst in this last month, but I’m back now and ready to continue kicking ass.

The thing that helped me get out of my head this time was a fellow artist who was in worse shape with her debilitating lack of motivation. She asked for my help and we made a plan for her to work on one project tonight and have some kind of rough draft of it to show me tomorrow morning. As we were solidifying this agreement, however, I realized that it was a one-way street. SHE was working on something she had to show ME, but I wasn’t being asked to work on anything at all. This isn’t the most productive way to be. One sure way to get yourself out of a rut is to put up or shut up–I need to be under the same gun as she is or I won’t be able to give her good advice, so I’ve made a challenge of my own. I told her that I’ll do a similar “rough draft” of something related to the DIRTY TRUTH film and that I’ll show it to her tomorrow. She agreed.

I’ve been unemployed since Christmas, but this doesn’t mean my work can stop. Bill McKibben doesn’t get paid to write emails to the 350.org members, he just feels compelled to do it. He has a sense of a higher purpose. He feels that if he doesn’t do everything he can to make change, to wake people up about the real threat of devastating climate change that he won’t be able to live with himself. Well, if it’s not the same for me about clean air then I don’t know what the hell I’m doing here. So, here it is: I’m out of my head, and I’m working again–on the film–and I feel better. :)

To quote THE WEST WING “Sometimes we need breaks. Breaks are good. But here’s the thing: break’s over.”

26

06 2012

It’s The Jobs, Stupid (Glass Half Full)

Every day now I am reading at least one article about the decline of coal-derived energy, and while the environmentalist in me is doing a dance of joy, the humanitarian in me is freaking out about the jobs lost. Miners and coal-plant employees, and all the other folks along the economic chain of the coal industry are losing jobs and as more folks become educated about the horrific health effects of coal, the more jobs will be lost.

As anti-coal activists, we need to do something about this. We can’t just say “Your industry is killing you, your family, and everyone around you,” shut down the source of their livelihoods and walk away; we need to be ready with solutions. In the end, of course, having solutions in our back pockets will help with the anti-coal debate. All so-called “pro-coal” people in the lower tiers of the economic coal-chain want is to not lose their jobs. They have families they want to support. This country is rich in resources. Solutions DEFINITELY exist that can best accommodate the needs of the area where a coal plant is being shut down.

I am currently researching this question with friends I spoke with during the making of THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT COAL. Whatever we come up with I’ll post here, but this is something that really shouldn’t take that long to kick into gear. The answers are all at the site itself:

1. What is the best use for the site? How polluted is it?

2. Should the building (plant) be torn down or remodeled?

Once you look at these two things, the rest of the answers about how to move forward will fall into place. Research has to be done on all fronts, but such research could be looped into local schools’ education. Also, use the old plant to teach kids about the history of the coal industry and it’s role in the shaping of the region and the nation.

See? GLASS HALF FULL, Y’ALL!

DTAC FILM SCREENINGS UPDATE:

Drew Grand of Sierra Club Beyond Coal MA has organized three house parties in Western MA in June that will use the film to kick off discussion. THREE SCREENINGS IN ONE MONTH! That’s a MUCH better average than a good showing at a film festival!!! Photos will be taken at each event and a “screening report” will be written up and all sent to me so I can track the effectiveness of the film. I will add pix & reports to this blog as I get them!

 

31

05 2012

The “Money” vs “Moral” Conundrum

“I’m almost never looking at the monetary bottom line, I’m looking at the CREATIVE bottom line.” ~Amanda Palmer

In my continued writings about the amazingness of rocker Amanda Palmer, the above rings true. Yesterday, prior to meeting the very cool, smart, passionate and energized Drew Grand of the Sierra Club MA chapter, I kept going back and forth about what I would say to him about the film. I knew he was wanting to meet with me to head-on the question of if and how he could use the film in his efforts with the Beyond Coal campaign. He was waiting for me to ask for money. I knew it when he emailed me and asked me to meet–which was a very classy move, btw–I knew it when he walked into the coffee shop yesterday.

A loooooooong time ago I asked myself the question: am I doing this for money, or something else? For a long, long time I allowed myself to get sucked in by filmmakers and producers who wouldn’t touch a job unless it had some kind of juicy financial reward. I can count on one hand the jobs like that that I’ve taken and, to no one’s surprise, I’ve hated them all. My pattern is definitely to fred toward fulfilling work and hope-like-hell it covers my expenses. Amanda does the same thing, but she does it with such elegance. I aspire to such elegance, and can only imagine that for her and eventually for me it will truly only be possible because we each have supportive families. No shit. That’s kind of the Be-All.

So, yesterday, after going over-again-how much I spent on the graphic design and gorgeous packaging of the film’s DVD (thanks Megalodon Media!), I decided that FUCK NO I’m not going to ask Drew or the Sierra Club for money. WHY THE HELL WOULD I DO THAT???????? I became a social and environmental justice filmmaker because THIS IS THE WAY I CAN CONTRIBUTE. I don’t have the stomach to be an activist the way Drew is, I don’t have the energy to run local house parties and try to convince small groups of people to vote so we can get rid of all this disgusting fossil fuel generation, I make films. That’s what I do. So I made one, and now I can throw my efforts behind making sure it gets seen by AS MANY PEOPLE AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

To that end, what I asked Drew for by way of “payment” were CONTACTS. I want his help in connecting me with Sierra Club chapters in the states surrounding MA. With great eagerness he gave me NH and CT. The ball is rolling, y’all. This time next year I want the film to be known in Portland (OR)!

Amanda has blazed an old, old trail, but one that’s mostly known to my and later generations only by virtue of history books. That trail is “If you want something done, DO IT YOURSELF.” Our country was created because of that idea. It’s time to pick up the path again… :)

 

23

05 2012

Passion Is A Nutrient

I don’t know if any of you know the musician Amanda Plamer, but she was the singer/songwriter and one-half of the seminal Boston cabaret-punk band THE DRESDEN DOLLS. The Dolls won a battle of the bands event in Boston several years ago and became small-time famous. Then they worked their asses off and became a little more famous. Then they capitalized on that fame by tapping into the passion their fans worldwide had for their music and aesthetic and they started to tour. The stories go on and on and build until… the band broke up and Amanda set out on her own.

Over the years since she’s been her own act, Amanda has taken the formula that worked for The Dolls and parlayed it into a successful solo business. I’m skipping a lot, but the most important thing to know is that she has worked TIRELESSLY not sleeping, writing blog posts, responding to comments and emails, putting up videos, appearing everywhere that would have her, and all that time she’s been consistently doing one thing: giving to her fans. Amanda gives and gives and gives. She is open-hearted, honest, true to herself and her beliefs, and gutsy, and it has all paid off.

A couple of weeks ago Amanda started a kickstart campaign to support her first solo studio record (she’s made other ones as a solo act, but none this professional). She asked for $100,000 and got that in seven hours. Read that again if you need to… I’ll wait… By the end of the second day she had $200,000. The numbers kept climbing. The longest one number has stayed a bit still in the campaign, in fact, was $600,000 but that was burst in the last week as well, and today the campaign has over $700,000. THIS IS A MOVEMENT. Here’s the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour

So, why, I’m sure you’re asking, is an environmental documentary filmmaker obsessed with air pollution writing about a nouveau-punk rock musician? Because this campaign, and the way Amanda has been communicating with her fans since the beginning, is a perfect model for how we can all change the world. The keys are passion, communication, commitment and honesty. Commitment is the hardest because it asks that we stick to what we’ve started, and sometimes doing this kind of work is exhausting, but if you look at those folks who are conducting people-powered initiatives (the Occupy movement!), you can see that it’s worth it because these initiatives are making a fucking dent!

An eco-activist example who mirrors Amanda’s effectiveness is Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. This man couldn’t stand it anymore that the fossil fuel industry was winning because so many people were just staying home and grumbling rather than doing something. He stood up and hasn’t sat down for years. As a result, he administrates a now global movement that, among other successes, stalled the progress of the proposed Keystone Pipeline. Read THAT again. THE MAN CHANGED LEGISLATION.

If you look around you’ll likely see people-powered initiatives going on all over the place. What I’m calling “people-powered initiatives” can be something as small as a group of parents working together in the community to raise funds for new computers at their kids’ schools. The initiatives only have to be as large or small as they need to be or as you want them to be, but the existing ones need to continue and new ones need to be developed…because in this way the people are finally winning.

Little by little, y’all, we are all seeing that our one, lone voice makes a difference. It makes a real difference. It’s that passion you’re feeling well-up in your heart right now as you’re reading this: it’s YOU. YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

When I was working closely with Occupy Boston I came to understand this first-hand for myself. Nothing I want changed will ever change unless I have the guts and commitment to stand up for what I believe. With this film and the Screening Guide, I am doing just that, and I am so proud. :)

Next week I’ll meet with a local rep of The Sierra Club. He wants to use the film for a campaign he’s running. Read that again. :) No, wait, I’LL read it again. :) This is why I made this film. I want to effect change, and with this dude’s campaign, I might actually do it.

Amanda Palmer’s kickstarter campaign is not something the recording industry can ignore. She has opened the flood gates and created a precedent. Bill McKibben has an army of people worldwide willing to stand up in public to support initiatives that support the Earth and, consequently, humanity. No legislator in the U.S. government can shove him aside any longer. Alexia Prichard is taking a small film around the country that changes the way people see smoke stacks at coal-fired power plants. Our passions are fueling change like water fuels a flower. Come with us. :)

 

17

05 2012

Next Steps

Tonight I’ll be going to a screening of another wonderful film about coal, THE LAST MOUNTAIN. This film focuses on mountaintop removal and was an official selection at Sundance last year.

My goal for the night, other than taking in the film, is to meet the representative of the Sierra Club MA chapter who organized the screening. I think at 30mins and focusing on two MA coal-fired power plants, my film can help his efforts with respect to air pollution education. We’ll see!

Another next step is a chat with the EPA’s department of Environmental Education. They and their target audience are also my target audience for THE DIRTY TRUTH ABOUT COAL. The more people who realize that the air they’re breathing EVERY DAY is polluted, the sooner we’ll be rid of coal-fired power plants.

Next, next step… I’ve got a pal at AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science) wanting to chat with me about presenting the film there to 200 of their fellows! That would be humbling and deeply, deeply badass. Fingers crossed!!!

Laaaaaastlyyyyyyyy….I need to make a follow-up film to THE DIRTY TRUTH… It needs to be about what to do with the sites of coal-fired power plants once the plants are closed. There are so so so so many things to consider, but they are all pretty wonderful things and I think such a film would produce itself. For this one, however, I seriously am going to chase funding, cuz, heaven-bless-me, but self-funding has strapped me.

Pollution Is Personal!

In person, Alexia

09

05 2012