By Theo Badashi (BIS ’12, PCC ’14) June 6, 2016
Media empowerment may be the single greatest factor for the future success of CIIS students. By infusing the insights and wisdom of CIIS into the planetary digital ecology, we can activate the next global shift in the hearts and minds of new audiences around the world.
I first saw this idea manifest itself in 2013, when I was part of a team of young philosophers and ecologists who, while working toward our master's degrees in the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness program at CIIS, decided to immediately apply the insights we were gaining toward the creation of a documentary film.
After taking Modern Cosmology Through the Media with Brian Swimme and David Kennard, followed by The Great Turning with Joanna Macy and Sean Kelly, our small team came together and quickly found ourselves swept up in a profound and exciting whirlwind of creativity and activism, to our collective surprise.
The film that emerged, titled The Future of Energy: Lateral Power to the People, is a feature-length documentary based upon the work of some of the top communities and individuals across the United States who are leading the transition toward a 100% renewable energy future.
When we first set out to make the film, we were neither seasoned filmmakers nor energy experts. Granted, each of us brought unique skills and experience that made the creation process possible: Lead writer/producer Max DeArmon previously worked in film production in New York City; our co-producer, Missy Lahren, was a former environmental lawyer; and I was a former talk radio host and political strategist. But none of us could have predicted that such a project would emerge so quickly.
Within a wildly fast-paced 13 months, we crowdsourced $23,000 in initial seed funds, then set out across the U.S. to interview some of the leading visionaries in the renewable energy movement, including activist Bill McKibben, economist and author of The Third Industrial Revolution Jeremy Rifkin, solar energy entrepreneur Danny Kennedy, Solutions Project co-founder Mark Jacobson, renewable energy policy expert Diane Moss, and others.
Barely a year after launch we held the international premiere in Australia, the U.S. premiere at the historic Chinese Theater in Hollywood, and the Bay Area premiere at the HUB Oakland with a musical performance by Michael Franti. The film went on to be chosen as one of the featured presentations of the People's Climate March, the largest ecological demonstration in world history, which attracted more than 400,000 people to the streets of New York and thousands more in 162 countries around the planet. The New York event landed the film features in both Origin and Real magazines.
Our primary aim was to inspire audiences and to introduce emerging trends in justice and consciousness within the energy debate. After two years of campaigning with the film, we found that many of the core concepts that we and others had been promoting-namely the call for 100% renewable energy by 2050-had become thoroughly incorporated into the mission and language of nearly every major climate movement on Earth, as evidenced by last year's Paris climate talks.
We witnessed the film, a first-of-its-kind project in the U.S., play an integral role in seeding our culture with a powerful new vision. All of this was made possible because of the guidance and support of our CIIS community.
CIIS students are brimming with radical ideas for how to create a just, diverse, and sustainable future. Imagine what would happen if more CIIS graduates emerged with the knowledge, tools, and confidence to serve as media-savvy change agents in the world. Media empowerment is the key to opening all of these doors, the vehicle through which CIIS students will move into positions of greater impact and leadership in the future.
Theo Badashi is a Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness PhD student and filmmaker. www.TheFutureofEnergy.org