Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Disruption Critiqued

I showed  Disruption to my grade 10 civics class.  Some liked it okay, but many thought it was long and boring.  "They could have done all that in a fraction of the time."  So the movie didn't get to the youth of the day the way the directors hoped it would.  I asked them what the message was that they heard, a better way to make it heard by more people, and how to actually change things.

Some hadn't really understood how CO2 works as a greenhouse gas, so that visual with the sun's rays was important to include.  They understood that we've known about all this for a long time, and nobody in the room openly questioned that it's largely due to burning fossil fuels.  They got the three big tipping points because that's scary, and they heard that it's all going to affect us in 30-40 years if nothing changes now.  I explained the concept of lobby groups, and they offered that "politicians are just puppets of the corporations."  Some thought that we needed scientists to work on solutions, but others countered that we have the solutions, we just don't have the political will to use them.  It seems they more or less have their heads around how things work and what needs to happen.

And they really get that consumers could change everything if we could just get our act together, which wasn't really part of the film.

So how to get all that information in a film that works to get students to act?

They said it has to have a celebrity and/or be funny.  A bunch of unfamiliar talking heads doesn't cut it.  It has to be more entertaining.  Get Matt Stone and Trey Parker to do something similar to the bit on US history they included in Bowling for Columbine.  It has to inspire us to work towards solutions.  And, most importantly, it has to be SHORT.  Fifty minutes is way too long.  Ten minutes might be acceptable, but anything more than that will lead people to zone out.  Aim for four minutes.

Then we talked about what will make the march effective.

People have to know why they're there.  If a bunch of people are just there for a party, it makes the whole thing look bad.  It's good if a few people get arrested doing something peaceful because it shows how important this is to them, and it shows that we have a real problem with our system.  There needs to be cameras, publicity, and the news there.  We need lots of people - enough to convince the government that the survival of people has to matter more than profits.  And we need a few strong leaders to rise up with a message for everyone that's clear, do-able, and visible.

We compared the OWS and the Civil Rights Movements.  OWS was amazing, but it just went away.  There were no leaders that anyone can name or remember.  And there wasn't a memorable message for them beyond, "It sucks that some people are so rich while others are starving."  What worked for the civil rights movement is that the fight was about, in part, laws that could be openly broken by the public in protest of the injustice of the system.  Ordinary people could sit in the wrong place on a bus, or use the wrong water fountain, or dare to enrol at the wrong school.  With OWS, people could move their money out of banks and into credit unions, but nobody notices when that happens.  I did just that, but largely from my living room.  We can't easily see how many subversives are on board, so it's hard to maintain the stamina necessary to keep the struggle moving.

And we talked about what makes this issue particularly tricky:  that the very people protesting are part of the world using the most fossil fuels per person.  We need legislation that prevents us from enjoying our comfortable lives as much as we currently do or hope to do in the future.  A few set up an us vs them scenario with the very wealthy - that it's all because some rich people have a few homes and travel everywhere.  I kept bringing it back home, that it's not just about the few wealthy people living in excess, but it's because of us, the very many who confuse luxuries with necessities and drive everywhere.  There's no escaping the fact that what we need is to change the way we live either by force or choice or necessity.  I'm still really hoping we can do it by choice.

What can we do to make it clear we're on-board is to avoid the use of fossil fuels openly:  Make solar panelled knapsacks cool so everyone starts charging their phones without taking from the grid.  Make it cool to bike, bus, and walk everywhere.  Teach class all day with the lights off.  Use every square inch of both sides of paper before letting it hit the recycling box. These seem inconsequential, but they make it clear to the culture what's important.  Some cities and countries are getting there, so it's definitely possible.  We just need to make it inescapable.

And go to a march on Sunday to make it clear to governments that this is a top priority issue.


  1. It's to be hoped, Marie, that Leonardo DiCaprio's appointment as the newest UN Messenger for Peace, with an emphasis on climate change, will meet the criterion set by your students.

    1. We can only hope. But I think my kid's going to make a video for me just in case! We'll see what he can come up with.

  2. Do you dare bring in opposing viewpoints into your class of 14-15 year olds Marie? Fortunately, these youngsters will forget your sermons and go on to work and live productive lives, pay their taxes etc. although, you may trap a few who will earn a degree in sociology, or womyn's studies:)


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