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Films fuel climate discussion

Arts & Culture

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Film can play a crucial role in helping demystifying the complexities of climate change, according to sustainability expert Dr Stephen Bygrave.

The science confirming the link between man-made carbon and temperature increases may exist and be readily available, but it is often explained in language that makes it difficult for ordinary people to comprehend the enormity of the problem.

Dr Bygrave, CEO of climate initiative Beyond Zero Emissions, says the Transitions Film Festival opening in Adelaide this week is “a really important event that can help communicate what are quite scientifically and economically complex issues”.

“Film is a great way of grabbing attention; it’s a great medium for communication.”

Now in its third year, Transitions – which runs at the Mercury Cinema from November 7 to 16 – showcases documentaries that explore the four “pillars” of sustainability: society, culture, the environment and the economy. The theme for 2014 is “Another World Is Happening”.

Dr Bygrave is one of several panellists who will speak after the screening on Friday of The Future of Energy: Lateral Power. Described as a love story about the clean energy revolution, the documentary shows the many ways in which individuals, communities and businesses are implementing renewable energy practices and reconnecting with their natural environment.

“This film – The Future of Energy – is a great way of explaining the seriousness of the issues, and the rapid reductions in carbon emissions that we need to make,” Dr Bygrave says.

From Greenburg, Kansas – a small town in the United States powered entirely by wind energy – documentary director Brett Mazurek shares stories accompanying the transition towards a “green economy”, which he believes will lead to local job creation, environmental sustainability and greater economic sustainability.

Having worked on climate change for 20 years, including six years with the Australian Government’s Department of Climate Change, Dr Bygrave is adamant the “green economy” to which film refers is the future.

“If we were starting from scratch, the truth is we wouldn’t choose to use them (finite resources),” he tells InDaily.

“Renewables are economically viable, and the technology and infrastructure is there.

“Beyond Zero has done a number of studies that have shown that Australia can have a 100 per cent renewable future. The energy revolution is happening and it is happening on a global scale.”

Despite the widespread fears of a potential climate catastrophe, Dr Bygrave speaks of the present situation not in terms of an impending disaster, but rather as opportunity for change.

“We have a number of really exciting initiatives going on at the moment (with Beyond Zero Emissions),” Bygrave says.

“The Energy Freedom Project, for example, is a community initiative that encourages individuals to be more energy efficient – to transform their homes into zero-emissions, net-energy producers.

“We have 1000 homes signed up at the moment and we are working with a number of other groups to make this a reality.”

The 2014 Transitions Film Festival comes at a crucial juncture in the clean energy debate in Australia, with proposals to lower the Renewable Energy Target – the mandatory benchmark for clean energy usage – which Dr Bygrave helped design and implement.

He argues that lowering the current target would represent a failure to acknowledge the economic and environmental potential of clean energy.

And he has message for those groups – political and commercial – who may be unwilling to embrace the realities of a future without finite resources.

“Some organisations are receptive (to change), while some aren’t.

“The ones that are willing to adapt will flourish and the ones who don’t will perish – it’s the nature of business and the nature of evolution.”

The Future of Energy will screen at 6.30pm, November 7, at the Mercury Cinema, to be followed by a discussion with a panel including Stephen Bygrave. Other films in the Transitions Film Festival include The Connection, a documentary exploring the link between mind and body; Growing Cities, which looks at the role of urban farming in America; and Musicwood, which follows a group of guitar-makers on a jungle quest to change logging practices and save the acoustic guitar. The full program is online.

















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