Saturday, August 18, 2007

The 11th Hour

The 11th Hour opens in L.A. today (and New York). Last night, a pre-screening was held, followed by a "panel discussion" featuring FOLAR executive director Shelly Backlar and an air quality guy I can't remember the name of, MC'd by a guy from 97.1's Free FM. I got my free ticket because I receive updates from F.O.L.A.R. I assume that's probably where James received his invitation as well; he was a couple rows behind me and said hello as a friend and I made our way to a couple of the last remaining seats in the moments before the film started.

It's a pretty good movie. I could have done with a little less of Leo and his voice over (DeCaprio produced the film). But he honestly didn't over do it, and as my friend also argued, he'll probably help attract more people to watch this kind of necessary viewing that tends to get overlooked. It features a number of experts, and a couple of my personal favorites, including Wes Jackson of The Land Institute, and William McDonough, author of a great book, Cradle to Cradle, and others from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds, and traditions. (I actually observed one guy pumping a fist when Andy Lipkis, of Tree People, made an appeance--which I found a little amusing). I was especially glad to see the documentary get hopeful at the end. I find the gloom and doom approach to be a little ridiculous and harping in most instances. But things are in dire straits, and the movie does a good job of detailing our realities comprehensively, while the healthy stock of hope helps make it easier to confront the issues we need to.

I found the "panel discussion" at the end to be a little disappointing. Too many people shouting out their own PSAs about their own organizations (LUF refrained from doing so, thankfully), with too few really thoughtful questions posed to the panelists. The almost best one, to me, was when a woman asked, What's the most daunting challenge of the panelists' work, excluding finding resources? Backlar responded that the toughest challenge is focusing on what can be done, and what should be done by FOLAR in particular, out of the whole host of good options and work that needs to be done. Tellingly, the air quality guy said the toughest challenge is resources, resources, resources. Which leads me to what I think would have been the best question asked last night if I had been able to articulate it and pose it in time:

When non-profits have to compete with each other for resources, from constituent citizens and government and foundation grants, how are they not to get caught up in the ends game of securing money and growth?

Collaboration seems to be key. But collaboration is tough, especially considering that our systems and institutions seem to design our organizations to compete wth each other to each other's death...

11th Hour's companion action site is at

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