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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

‘Big Ideas for a Small Planet’ makes environmentalism funky and fun

The Arctic is melting. Polar bears are drowning. Tornadoes are striking Chicago and Minnesota. The oil is running out. It’s easy to get discouraged, looking at the state of the world today — is there anything we can do to lessen our negative impact on our planet without reverting to a hunter-gatherer culture?

Turns out there is… and it doesn’t have to be the end of civilization as we know it, either. Last year, the Sundance Channel commissioned a series of short documentaries with narrow focuses on the areas where we can make big changes quickly, easily, and painlessly, and that became Big Ideas for a Small Planet. The first season is now available on DVD, and covers such vital topics as where we live, what we eat, what we wear, even the art we make and the philosophies we espouse, and how we can make all of those areas so vital to human comfort and survival greener and less hazardous to the planet.
The second season of Big Ideas is airing now, and like the first go-round, it is inspiring and even exciting to see not just the possibilities for a more environmentally kinder future but the things that smart, creative people are doing now to usher in that greener world. “How do we change our entire culture?” sounds like an impossible question to answer, but here were meet all manner of activists, artists, and entrepreneurs — yes, people are making good money by doing good — who are working to make disposable a dirty word and building a new kind of sustainable consumerism. Big Ideas is not environmentalism as a chore: it’s thinking green as something funky and cool and fun and doable.

Already in this second season, Big Ideas has tackled ways we can convert the fashion industry — and our own preconceptions! — away from traditionally grown cotton, an industry that is a horrendous abuser of pesticides and other chemicals, and over to organic fabrics; how we can define away the concept of “waste” and mine trash for all manner of reusable materials; why green spaces and sustainable mass transit are so vital to city life; and how we can build homes that are good for the environment and ourselves. On Tusday, June 10, at 9pm Eastern, the episode “Business” debuts, which shows us how green businesses aren’t merely more pleasant places to work at for employees but also more profitable for owners. Next week, on June 17, we’re discover the new frontiers of green technology in “Gadgets,” and the week after that, on June 24, it’s all about “Animals,” both wild endangered species and our own housepets, and how their lives can and should be turned greener, too.

If you need a boost of good news, Big Ideas for a Small Planet is a good place to start. It’s enough to make you believe we might not be doomed after all.

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