In How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, filmmaker Josh Fox (GASLAND) starts off the film by describing this dawning realization: “Even though we could beat the fossil fuel industry in our own backyard, we could not beat the forces of climate change.” (See film trailer, below.) He moves from celebrating the success of his community in GASLAND, to noticing his hemlock tree dying, to recognizing the sheer power of the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy, along with its impacts on environmental injustice. The first third of the film presents example after example of climate change data points and human impacts: the melting of Iceland, the increase in temperature in Alaska of 3°C, the new weather maps in Australia that display never-before-reached heat levels, the impact of the food system (particularly meat production), species die-off, ecosystem collapse, invasive species advance, increased spread of diseases normally only found in the tropics, and many other measures. Fox states:
I would love for this to be the part of the movie where I say everything’s going to be OK, but I can’t.
At this point, I confess I had to pause the film for a while, to cry and feel overwhelmed, and to take some deep breaths and keep facing into reality as it is, without giving up.
Fox asks the massive question:
How do we even begin to grieve?
He answers the question for himself by first acknowledging that there’s something to be grieved: by paying attention to what it is that we are losing, marking it, mourning it, and then, by turning our awareness to all the things that climate can’t change: “What are the things that climate change can’t destroy? Parts of us that are so deep that no storm can take them away?” In this film, he set out to find those parts of us that make us most intensely human, the places of hope and resolve that just might help us move through the grief and despair, and toward love and hope. He looked for people who had hit rock bottom: who had found themselves in places of despair due to climate change and its impacts, who had recognized it, and who had still gotten back up and kept working toward just, equitable, and sustainable solutions.
The moment you surrender, that’s the moment when you change, but also the moment when you find the revolution inside.
In sections labeled, “Courage,” “Creativity,” “Civil Disobedience,” “Innovation,” “Human Rights is the Air We Breathe,” “The Evolution Will be Solarized,” and “You Have a Choice,” Fox takes us on a journey around the world, visiting activists and environmental practitioners in the Amazon, the United States, China, Mongolia, the South Pacific, and Zambia. We see small villages in Latin America with the courage to face down fossil fuel companies, meet communities using creativity through art, traditions, and storytelling in order to impact people on a deeper level, and hear individuals who talk about the need for a shift in values. “Energy production is not separate from social issues…. We need more than just a shift in energy; we need a shift in models,” says activist Tim DeChristopher. “A collapse can be a step forward: maybe greed and competition weren’t the best values to base our culture off of.” DeChristopher acknowledges that he carries despair around like a weight in his heart, and has come to see it as an anchor, rooting him to that which is important.
This film offers hope in the truest sense: it sees reality as it is and as it will be, given the current trajectory. It imagines a positive future, and sees myriad pathways to get there, through the small choices and actions each of us take, to act in ways that build up all the good and beautiful parts of ourselves that climate can’t change. The film takes us to the place of despair, recognizing it is only in that moment of utter despair that we can move through grief and toward real hope. While it does not offer hope that “everything’s going to be OK,” it does offer hope that together, we can build something beautiful and meaningful. In this moment where humanity is testing itself to the breaking point, we still have a choice, and many of us are choosing what is loving and beautiful, what is creative and communal. Many of us are choosing to be our best selves in the light of an uncertain future, and though we will have to face difficult times, we are not alone.
You can find How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change on iTunes for individual use, or purchase viewing rights for educational institutions or community groups through Bullfrog Films.