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Disruption: A Compelling Call for Citizen Protest

Disruption: A Compelling Call for Citizen Protest

by Brandon Greenblatt -
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Brandon Greenblatt // 07 December 2015 //  #GoingGreen

Disruption film posterI’m no cinematographer, but I would guess that it is incredibly difficult to make an impactful documentary about climate change.  You have to spend hours gathering footage of the natural world.  You have to spend hours interviewing prominent politicians and scientists, synthesizing their expert opinions into something your audience can understand.  Beyond all of that, you have to not only convince people that climate change is occurring, but also convince them that it’s human caused and that they can take action to combat it.

Disruption, a film by Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, accomplishes all of these goals.  It is an excellent and impactful documentary.  Released on September 7, 2014, the film describes the process of organizing the People’s Climate March, which occurred on September 21, 2014 in New York City, two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Summit.

Disruption is a successful documentary on a couple of fronts.  The visual images show the astounding transformation our planet has gone through due to man-made pollution and ecological interference.  The film opens with original footage of Earth as seen from orbit around the Moon during the Apollo 8 mission in 1968.  You see Earth in its entirety and really gain a sense of the vast beauty of this planet we inhabit.  Almost immediately, the film cuts to scenes of natural disasters, including footage from typhoons in the Philippines, Hurricane Katrina, and droughts plaguing Africa.  Disruption proclaims, poignantly, that the beautiful planet we initially witnessed in the film is no longer the planet we live on.

A significant portion of the film contains brief interviews with prominent politicians, philanthropists, climate activists, and scientists—in short, the people we should trust the most to know about climate change, care about, and do something about climate change.  Disruption distills complex environmental and political jargon into something that a common person can understand, and it makes an incredibly compelling point: It’s bad enough that humans have known about climate change for decades and have only just started to take action.  But the action we’re taking now is insufficient to preserve life as we know it. 

One point from the film really stuck with me, and it illustrates this idea perfectly.  During the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change held in Berlin in April 2014, a group of scientists determined that the highest amount by which we can permit global temperatures to rise until humanity is significantly threatened is 2°C (3.6°F).  Disruption points out, however, that even if we abide by current policies to restrict greenhouse gas emissions, the global temperature will rise by over 6°C.  If we keep placating ourselves with policies that we know to be ineffectual, how will we every truly combat climate change?

The film offers a solution, one derived directly from its title.  The documentary emphasizes scientific understanding and personal environmental stewardship as vehicles to combat climate change, but what it really promotes is public protest and a call for action.  Disruption.  While depicting the process of organizing the People’s Climate March, Disruption showcases the power of peaceful, civil protest.  It shows us that activists come in all shapes and sizes – those with experience and those newly empowered, rich and poor, black and white, longtime environmental stewards and common but concerned citizens.  When people unify and make their voices heard, their impact can be monumental and even compel the United Nations and local governments to action.

As we approach the Conference of Parties (COP-21) to be held in Paris at the end of this month, the power of citizen protest needs to be utilized.  As my most recent blog post detailed, COP-21 is going to be huge.  Global leaders are gathering to outline an updated strategy for combating climate change, with particular focuses on renewable energy, gender roles, and international development.  As all of these new goals are set, people in Paris and around the world have an exciting opportunity to make their voices heard.  They can take the lead from those who participated in the People’s Climate March and ensure that the next round of climate talks will truly change the course of environmental activism for years to come.

Disruption opens with a quote that I’d like to leave you with.  It’s from Frederick Douglass, a famous abolitionist leader who helped overturn the policy of slavery in the United States during the 19th century. His words compelled people to civil rights activism then, and it can compel us to environmental activism today.  “Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.”

Disruption can be watched online for free at watchdisruption.com.

Disruption film poster (photo credit: pfpictures)

Brandon Greenblatt is a student majoring in International Affairs and studying German at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and originally from Matthews, North Carolina. Brandon is no stranger to writing and publishing as the editor of the Western Europe section of The Caravel, Georgetown's international affairs newspaper.