State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Green Films for Earth Day 2013

Earth Day (April 22) is the ideal time to gain a better understanding of the serious challenges our planet is facing. And while the issues can seem overwhelming, they do not have to paralyze us.  There are many actions that individuals can take to make a difference.  Here are some films to view on Earth Day (or any time) that will inform and inspire you.

Texas wind farmer Cliff Etheredge. Photo credit: Peter Byck
Texas wind farmer Cliff Etheredge. Photo credit: Peter Byck

Carbon Nation is an 82-minute documentary that doesn’t care whether you believe in climate change or not. The film focuses on solutions to the myriad effects of global warming, and shows that these solutions can benefit society as a whole, no matter one’s political persuasion. Producer/director Peter Byck (producer of Garbage and editor of many other documentaries) rounds up experts around the U.S., including a Texas wind farmer, a green jobs advocate, the former CIA director, the CEOs of Virgin Atlantic Airways and Stonyfield Farm and more, to demonstrate how green solutions benefit all sectors of society. The film reveals the devastating effects of climate change such as melting glaciers, ocean dead zones, and the devastation wrought by pine beetles extending their range northward as winters warm; but it also highlights good news. Farmers in Texas, once struggling to survive, are now making money as wind farmers. The military is reducing its energy consumption by using solar-powered spray foam insulated tents in the desert. Companies like Disney and Stonyfield Farm have realized that reducing their carbon footprint not only helps the planet, but makes economic sense as well. Carbon Nation provides a good overview of the challenges facing our planet, but also of the innovative solutions being developed to meet them.


Monday, April 22, 8-10pm, at Columbia University, 516 Hamilton Hall, New York City

For screenings in other cities, Earth Month activities and actions you can take, visit CleanEdison, sponsor of Carbon Nation.



Gasland Part II is the follow-up to director Josh Fox’s Oscar-nominated film, Gasland, that examined hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the controversial method of drilling for natural gas. From the Gulf of Mexico to the Delaware River basin, Fox exposes the long-term effects of fracking, including poisonous water, earthquakes and neurological damage, by focusing on individuals whose lives have been profoundly affected by this drilling technology. The film also looks at the gas industry’s powerful response using smear campaigns and lawsuits to discredit negative claims about fracking.


April 21-26 at The Tribeca Film Festival, New York City



Trashed, a feature-length documentary produced and directed by TV and film producer Candida Brady and featuring actor Jeremy Irons, explores the mountains of waste produced by our over-consumptive life style. We keep producing more and more things that don’t break down…where does it all go? Irons explores what happens to the billion or so tons of waste that go unaccounted for each year around the globe. He visits beautiful places that have been despoiled by pollution and garbage, and the Pacific Garbage Patch where he shows us how plastic waste affects marine life. In an orphanage in Vietnam we see children with birth defects caused by Agent Orange residue. Today, most people, including newborn babies, have chemicals in their system from the waste in our environment that leaches into the water and air. Trashed also provides hope in the form of individuals who produce no waste, the promotion of anti-waste legislation, and a virtually waste-free city.


April 22,10:30am at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, Peter Jay Sharp Building, BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

Or request a screening.

The film’s website features ten small actions you can take.


Mother photo

Mother: Caring for 7 Billion. Population was a major focus at the first Earth Day in 1970, but in the years since, it has become a sensitive and often politically incorrect issue because of harsh methods that have been used to deal with over population. In 2011, the world’s population reached 7 billion. Population growth and over consumption are the main reasons our resources are disappearing faster than nature can regenerate them.  Rich countries point the finger of blame at poor countries that are struggling to feed their growing populations, but if everyone in the world lived as Americans live, it would take six planets to sustain us all.  Mother, a 68-minute film, produced by Joyce Johnson, features interviews with Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb; economist Mathis Wackernagl; human reproductive health expert Malcolm Potts; social scientist Riane Eisler; and follows Beth Osnes, a child rights activist, as she visits Ethiopia. Osnes shows us first-hand the complexities of the over population issue, whose roots ultimately lie in the domination of women by men. The solution is to educate and better the lives of women everywhere. Girls who are educated, marry later, have fewer children and promote better health for their children and their families. Ultimately, Mother maintains that the key to saving our planet is raising the status of women around the world.

Streaming free on the Internet from April 19 through May at:



The Secret Life Series produced by Inform, Inc. is comprised of short (5-6 minutes) videos that examine the life cycle and environmental impacts of every day products. The Secret Life of Paper explores how much paper we use and waste, and how you can reduce your paper footprint. The Secret Life of Cell Phones shows how cell phones are related to pollution, health and global warming. The Secret Life of Beef examines how our consumption of beef impacts the environment and hastens climate change.

The films can be viewed online at Inform, Inc.


And beyond Earth Day:

chasing ice poster

Chasing Ice is the critically acclaimed documentary film that follows photographer James Balog as he captures the effects of a changing climate on the world’s glaciers. Using time-lapse cameras, his videos document ancient mountains of ice as they disappear in a stunning look at climate change as it’s happening.

Screening and panel discussion: April 25, 2013, 6:30-9pm at Columbia University Morningside Campus, Barnard College, Altschul Hall 202, Lehman Auditorium, New York

Speakers: Stephanie Pfirman, Barnard College; Maribeth Murray, International Arctic Research Center; Edward Parson, UCLA School Of Law; Debika Shome, Harmony Institute; Michael Lemonick, Climate Central




Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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Mariapaola Sutto
Mariapaola Sutto
11 years ago

Renee good job!