Crazy Radical Environmental Fruit-Nuts

In the past month or so I’ve watched two very intriguing documentaries about environmental activists who go to prison for their actions. Readers of this blog know I advocate for nonviolent social action, and I just want to highlight that again in the context of these two films.

The first is If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (PBS, film website, Wikipedia, IMDB, DemocracyNow!) which follows the story of Daniel McGowan. As a member of the ELF, McGowan had participated in arson as a tactic for social and environmental change. The film simultaneously tells the ELF’s story and follows court proceedings against McGowan.

If a Tree Falls is compelling story-telling. It is a provocative look at the sociological, psychological, and political factors that radicalized the local environmental activist community. I appreciated that the filmmakers allowed the activists and the law enforcement personnel to be complex; they weren’t dumbed down to one-dimensional caricatures. These are complex issues with complex actors, and I value that this messiness was allowed to come through.

More recently, I watched Bidder 70, which looks at the actions of Tim DeChristopher relating to conservation and climate change (film website, organization, Facebook, IMBD, Peaceful Uprising). Rather than take a violent or destructive approach like McGowan, DeChristopher interfered with an auction of extraction rights by holding up his bidding number, 70.

I have a deep respect for people who find creative and meaningful ways to live our their values. I respect even more those who dedicate themselves to pursuing this integration of values and living in peaceful or nonviolent ways.

Reflection Questions

  1. Am I as committed to my values as these two young men are?
  2. To what degree have I integrated my values and actions? What holds me back from doing this more fully?
  3. What sacrifices am I willing to make to live what I believe and to promote my values?
  4. What role did community play in the lives of these two men? How did community influence them before, during and after the actions noted in these films?
  5. In the area of environmental activism, what is needed today? What issues, strategies and tactics are most important at this stage in world history?


Want to find more films that address some of these same themes? Check out the follow twelve films on protest and social action:

  1. Encounter Point (2006, documentary)
  2. Budrus (2009, documentary)
  3. 5 Broken Cameras (2011, documentary)
  4. The Singing Revolution (2006, documentary)
  5. This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000, documentary)
  6. Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008, documentary)
  7. Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest (2010, documentary)
  8. 180 South (2010, documentary)
  9. A Force More Powerful (1999, documentary)
  10. The Edukators (2004, movie)
  11. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2004, movie)
  12. Amazing Grace (2006, movie)

Friday Web Round-up

Today’s list is shorter than usual. I’ve been distracted with other things.

News Round-up






War +Violence + Peace

Business  Ethics



Related Documentaries

Tonight I finished watching Nobelity (2006, site 1, site 2), which features a series of interviews with Amartya Sen, Wangari Muta Maathai, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams and other Nobel winners. Topics covered include health, energy, peace, war, culture, religion, the environment, over-population and hunger. This diversity of topics keeps the film moving, but it also means that no topic can be addressed in depth. The final consideration of love and family was especially meaningful to me. I believe this is a critical theme–we’re all in this together; we’re all interdependent.

Two other films that compliment Nobelity are I Am and The End of Poverty?

Ashoka: Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility

While watching Beyond Corporate Social Responsibility today from Netflix, these two unrelated quotes stood out to me:

Time & Imagination (13:07)

In 1997, I and my wife, Mara, Decided to take a sabbatical. A year of learning, of traveling, of doing nothing…. At the end of this year…an idea came to create in Brazil Instituto Ethos for business and social responsibility. In fact, practically all the initiatives I’ve taken that have resulted in creating new endeavors, new organizations happened at times of doing absolutely nothing. One of the great risks today, with the issue of stress, with people not having time for themselves, with their full schedules, is that they don’t leave room in their minds. They don’t leave room for their imagination, for their creativity, for anything new to happen. It is essential for anyone who really wants to undertake new things and think about the meaning of things to leave room in their time, in their schedule, so that new things can come.

Personal Responsibility (43:55)

Whenever anyone says that the problem is too big to be solved by each one of us, that he feels to small and weak to change the world, I always say, “It doesn’t matter if you will be able to do those things, if they will have any consequence on the world. It is important that you do your part.” It is important that you do everything that must be done in your beliefs, because everything you do will reflect on future generations and will reflect on your children. And it’s awful if one day your child should come to you and say, “You knew the world was in danger. You knew the environment was being destroyed. You knew about social conditions. Why didn’t you do your part?” So it is very important to build an honorable life, a dignified life, and try to do things. Because one day you will have to evaluate your life, and when you have a positive balance, there is no better gratification.

The Interrupters

The documentary The Interrupters is both deeply moving and troubling to me. It looks at the work of street leaders in Chicago who are putting their lives on the line to interrupt violence in their neighborhoods. While the interrupters do meet as a group and do intervene in group situations, the one-on-one conversations and the personal relationships developed by the interrupters stand out as the most powerful locations of change.

I will never have street cred in Chicago. I will never speak peace on those corners. But who can I reach out to in my own sphere of influence? Who needs me in my neighborhood or apartment complex? How can I be a peacemaker and a mentor here? Those are the questions the film raises for me.

Recommended Reading (and viewing)

Here is your reading assignment for today:

Environment & Health:

Society & Culture & Life & Activism & Stuff:

Off-center Religion and Politics and Government:


Prana’s Wisdom:


Selected Canadian Views on US Politics and Economy:

Against Democrats:

Against Republicans:

What’s an Independent to Do?

Random bits for the unemployed:

BONUS 1: Three Classic Articles on Christian Social Ethics


On Health and Healing

The story of Bhava Ram learning to get up and find new life is inspiring to me. It reminds me of these three documentaries:




Watch this third one for free on Hulu.

Thoughtful Bits on a Screen

In the past week or so, I’ve watched the following:

(1) Budrus. “The film is about non-violent demonstrations conducted by the residents of Budrus (a Palestinian town in the Ramallah and al-Bireh Governorate) during the early 2000s to protest against the building of the Israeli West Bank barrier inside of the village” (Wiki).

(2) No Impact Man. “The film, which premiered September 4, 2009, follows Colin Beavan and his family during their year-long experiment to have sustainable zero impact on the environment” (Wiki).

(3) Finding Your Roots — Samuel L. Jackson, Condoleezza Rice, and Ruth Simmons. “The ancestral pasts of actor Samuel L. Jackson, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Brown University President Ruth Simmons.” My wife thinks there’s a chance I’m related to one of the three. You can infer how that would work.

Peak Oil & New Urbanism

These three documentaries on Peak Oil have interested me:

The Power of Community (2006, trailer, Wiki). This looks at the economic crisis in Cuba following the break-up of the Soviet Union, which significantly reduced Cuba’s access to cheap oil. The way food production, transportation, education and other sectors adapted is telling. Cuba is said to be a test case for global peak oil. I appreciated the focus on local food production/permaculture.

A Crude Awakening (2006, trailer, Wiki). General description of Peak Oil and the potential ramifications of passing the peak.

The End of Suburbia (2004, trailer, Wiki). I like the first two films better, but this one made more obvious the reason people are pushing for fracking today–dwindling natural gas accessible via traditional approaches of extraction. All three films demonstrate why there is pressure to build the XL pipeline. One thing I appreciated about this film was its consideration of new urbanism (Wiki), though they admit it could be too little too late. A documentary I value on new urbanism is A Convenient Truth (Curitiba, Brazil, 2006, trailer, IMDB).

I have not watched the 2007 follow-up, Escape from Suburbia, which received mixed reviews (pro, con, Netflix).