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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

Sundance Channel goes green to save the humans

So, we’ve heard the inconvenient truth about CO2 emissions and how, if we don’t do something to reduce them soon, we’re screwed. Now we’ll be getting the convenient truth about we can do to save a human-habitable world on the Sundance Channel’s new three-hour block The Green, the first regular environmentally themed TV programming from a U.S. network.
This is how it’ll work: every Tuesday at 9pm Eastern, starting next week, April 17, we’ll get a new 30-minute documentary about cool innovators of environmentally awesome products and services on Big Ideas for a Small Planet. I had a chance to take a look at the first few episodes, and I can tell you that the series starts off with an internal-combustion bang with “Fuel,” which introduces us to three pioneers of alternative fuels including vegetable oil (yes, cooking oil scrounged from Mickey D’s and the like), biodiesel, and ethanol. “Can we imagine a world without gasoline?” the episode asks, and the answer is a cheery “Of course we can!” It might be a little too cheery — the question of how we’re going to grow all the corn we’d need to make sufficient quantities of some of these fuels to even make a dent in our gasoline needs isn’t broached. But then again, the episode does not pretend that these alt-fuels are our only alternatives, just part of the answer to the conundrum.

There’s no pretending that we aren’t facing a crisis, a “national emergency,” as enviro activist Laurie David (a producer of An Incovenient Truth) says here, but the overall tone is hopeful: “It’s not about sacrifice, it’s about change,” she continues, about the “clean industrial revolution.” The convenient truth “Fuel” reveals is that there is plenty we can be doing now to save the planet for ourselves, and that if we do this right, it could make for an exciting time to be alive. We’re facing a tremendous challenge, the show suggests, but challenge can good for us. Be scared, “Fuel” suggests, but don’t panic: get to work instead. (That’s the message of the other two episodes I saw as well: “Wear” asks us if we can “imagine a world that is both green and stylish,” and “Build” if we can “imagine a greener way to build” our homes and offices. And the answer to both questions is a hearty hell-yes.)

Each episode of Big Ideas for a Small Planet will be followed by a thematically similar feature-length documentary; next week’s will be A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. I’ll report on that soon…

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