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The Most Recent Posts

When one is not a lonely number

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Environment, Film, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Transition OKC | Posted on 10-06-2011

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Photo credit Julie Evans

YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip screened last night at the deadCenter Film Festival and will screen again tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Harkins Theater, Oklahoma City. I couldn’t go last night but am getting very excited about the Saturday screening. Just in case you missed it, YERT was winner of the Audience Award at the 2011 Environmental Film Festival at Yale.

Today I’m hoping to snag some cool YERT swag at the Meet & Greet with Mark Dixon Transition OKC is hosting from 4-6 p.m., Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson. Come on down! First ten people at the Meet & Greet win a reusable YERT ChicoBag, and Dixon will also be giving away two copies of Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones.

Couple of days ago on a conference call with Carolyne Stayton, executive director, Transition US, I mentioned YERT was screening here (Carolyne is interviewed in YERT), and boy, she really perked up. Her voice got all and happy and she said, “I love those guys. They are so much fun.” I can’t think of any better recommendation.

Final words.

And finally … the last installment of the Q&A email interview with Mark Dixon and Ben Evans, YERT’s producers and directors. A huge heartfelt Okie thanks to them for being so thoughtful in answering the questions and for taking so much time with this. Gotta say — these two guys are rich with insights – realistic and hopeful – a useful balance for all of us as we keep on transitioning. Be sure to read all the way to the end – they saved their best words for last.

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Q: What was the most inspiring thing you discovered on your journey?

A: Wes Jackson and the Land Institute in Salina, Kan., were particularly inspiring. He’s really addressing a number of problems simultaneously by rethinking the entire idea of agriculture.  His visionary concept of a perennial polyculture addresses soil erosion, water scarcity, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, fossil fuel use, pesticide use, biodiversity, and general ecological health in one fell swoop. t’s pretty amazing stuff. And once his work is done, he plans to give it away to humanity. Our children and grandchildren will be thanking him, big time.

Q: Most interesting?

A: In Idaho we found a guy with an idea to pave all the roads in the U.S. with solar panels. His invention, Solar Roadways (which is featured in the film), was one of the most interesting ideas we found all year – largely because it seems so outlandish and impossible on the face of it. But the more we dug into it, the more sense it made and the more brilliant it seemed. The short video we created to help get the word out about his invention has been our most watched video by far – amassing a million YouTube hits in the past ten months. So apparently, other people find it pretty interesting too.

Q: Most meaningful?

A: It’s hard to pin down a single most meaningful part of the trip.  Certainly WWOOFing in Wyoming was very meaningful – getting to dig in the dirt and really be a part of growing our own food. Visiting with Wes Jackson at the Land Institute was an incredibly profound and meaningful experience, as was our time spent with Joel Salatin on his farm in Virginia

Bob Berkebile’s story of turning personal tragedy and disaster into the inspiration for our modern green architecture movement and, by extension, a way to help others (like the people of Greensburg, Kan.) rebuild more wisely in the wake of their own disasters is an incredibly meaningful example of the power of one person to leverage their own pain in the service of humanity.

And of course, the unexpected pregnancy on the trip amplified the meaning of just about everything we encountered and served as a constant reminder of exactly what’s at stake as we navigate our way through these challenging times on planet earth.

Q: Most discouraging and/or darkest moment?

A: Covering mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining in West Virginia was probably the trip’s darkest hour. We all went into a depression after that – it was hard to wrap our heads around a country bombing itself in that way. While we had heard about MTR and knew that it was a problem well before we got to West Virginia, nothing could prepare us for seeing it up close and first hand from the air and from the ground. The complete and permanent devastation of an entire region of our country – one of the oldest and most bio-diverse regions on the planet and its uniquely American culture – in the name of a very marginal short-term increase in profits for a few coal barons is an almost unimaginable crime against humanity and nature. The insanity of this practice really hit us hard, and we hope that the film, in some small way, can help end this ongoing environmental and social tragedy once and for all.

Q: Happiest and most fulfilling moment?

A: As a self-professed sunset hound, Ben filmed a lot of sunsets all over the country on the trip which have been fun to relive on film, although Mark ended up filming perhaps the most memorable sunset from the back of a ferry leaving Alaska. The wonderful people that we met all along the way in every corner of the country and the tearful hugs and mutual inspiration that we shared with them has been one of the best things about the experience. And it was especially wonderful when we could use our journey to connect people from different walks of life or different parts of the country who needed each other (but perhaps didn’t know it yet) – something that happened a number of times on the trip.

Introducing people all around the country to the solutions and ideas that we’ve fallen in love with – like Earthships or Solar Roadways – and hearing them get excited and say they want to build an Earthship now or help make Solar Roadways a reality has really been fulfilling. And of course, the journey of the pregnancy and birth, while it was a lit
tle challenging for Mark to deal with at the time, has proven in the months and years since to have been one of the most fulfilling moments, not only for Julie and Ben, but of the trip itself in that it really gave the entire experience a new level of depth, meaning, and humanity that it might not have had otherwise. 

Q: What do you hope people will take away from the film?

A: We really hope people come away from the film recognizing that the most powerful solutions to the environmental challenges we face happen to also be the most satisfying, nourishing ways to live, and that people are joyfully exploring and sharing those solutions all around the country.

And we hope they recognize that they too have the power of "one" – that none of us has to be any smarter or prettier or richer than we are right now to have an enormous, immediate, and lasting positive impact on our own communities and on the larger world around us – as exemplified by the everyday heroes in the film. That’s a pretty empowering idea, when you tap into it.

Posted by Shauna Lawyer Struby. This post originally appeared on ThinkLady.

A 50-state environmental anti-depressant comes to Oklahoma

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Environment, Film, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Sustainability, Transition OKC | Posted on 10-06-2011

YERTLogoTransparentMore YERT scoop is here! See below for part 2 of the Q&A email interview with Mark Dixon and Ben Evans, producers and directors of the documentary YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip, a year-long eco-expedition through all 50 United States. With video camera in hand and tongue in cheek, these daring filmmakers explored the landscape of environmental sustainability in America and found plenty of laughter, fun and innovation happening all along the way.

YERT is screening today and Saturday at the deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City and was winner ofYERT_laurels_EFFY_Winner the Audience Award at the 2011 Environmental Film Festival  at Yale. And tomorrow, Transition OKC is hosting a Meet & Greet with Mark Dixon from 4-6 p.m. at Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson. First ten people at the Meet & Greet win a reusable YERT ChicoBag, and Dixon will also be giving away two copies of Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones.

More YERT scoop tomorrow.

Come back for the third and final installment of our interview with Mark and Ben where we’ll find out what the YERT team discovered that inspired and depressed them, what was meaningful and made them very happy, and what they hope people will take away from the film.

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Photo credit: Erica Bowman

YERT email chat continued.

Q: How did you plan your routes and stops, and research and select those you interviewed along the way?

A: The first thing we did, way before we started the road trip, was to do a fair amount of research by meeting and listening to people at Green Festivals, the Bioneers conference, and also doing a fair amount of web-based research. That gave us a rough idea of the topics we wanted to cover, states where those topics might be most relevant, and which states held the most interesting interviews for those topics.

Then we jumped into the actual road trip route, and our goal there was to figure out how to hit the northern states in the summer, and the southern states in the winter — particularly hitting Alaska in the height of summer. We were ultimately trying to avoid driving in snowy conditions to make it easier on ourselves, our car and our schedule.Then we identified a few key events that we wanted to be sure we hit along the way — college reunions, San Francisco Green Festival, Bioneers, and holidays near home — and that led to a rough state-by-state itinerary.

Ben is a bit of a road-trip junky and map nut who had been to almost every state before the trip even started, so he really went to town solving the route puzzle and pinpointing key must-see spots while Mark, who is a spreadsheet guru and great contingency planner, dove into logistics and figuring out the perfect equipment and packing list that could keep the mission functioning on the road. 

With the itinerary in mind, we generally focused on the next couple of states in our planning efforts, setting up about 1/3 of the interviews in advance, and leaving plenty of room for fate (and a bit of luck) to guide us to the remaining 2/3. We often found that one interview would lead us to another interview, and so on, until our schedule forced us to leave a state. All throughout the trip we were hopelessly dependent on the Internet for research, e-mail, mapping and web-based communication with our audience.

Q: How did you handle conflict on your team during the trip and throughout the production process? 

A: Everybody on the team had their individual reasons for wanting to do the project, but ultimately we all wanted the trip to succeed and were motivated most by our collective desire to address the large-scale environmental problems facing us all – and we weren’t looking to get rich or famous from it. So from the beginning, we never needed to second guess the motives for anybody on the team. That said, we had no shortage of different ideas about how to best move things along, and we ultimately spent huge amounts of time in extremely thorough discussions of the smallest details. Generally, Mark was more conservative and interested in arriving early with extra time (turning down unique opportunities in order to get to places on-time, and to get enough sleep), while Ben was often interested in pushing the limits of what was humanly possible (embracing unique opportunities as they arose, trusting in providence to sort out the logistics, and ready to pull all-nighters to make them happen). More than anything, we handled conflict with patience and mutual respect, knowing that we had to solve most issues for the long-term, not just push them under the table for another day.

Q: Regarding conflict, any anecdotal incidents you’d care to share?

A: We had to work through a few tough spots – like Julie’s pregnancy in the face of our garbage challenge and the mostly healthy tension between Mark’s cautious risk aversion and desire to shoot less versus Ben’s intuitive risk taking and desire to shoot more freely. Generally, the fact that we were all doing this in the service of a much larger mission kept our egos in check and our foibles in perspective. Mark did eventually have a significant meltdown about halfway through the trip when Julie’s food needs from the pregnancy started to conflict with the garbage challenge — but, as a friend of Mark and the husband of Julie, Ben tried to function as a mostly-neutral sounding board and, ultimately, it wasn’t anything a little ice cream apology couldn’t solve.

– Posted by Shauna Lawyer Struby. This post originally appeared on ThinkLady.

Is it possible to laugh and help the planet at the same time?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Change, Film, Sustainability, Sustainable OKC, Transition OKC | Posted on 07-06-2011

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Mark Dixon and Ben Evans shout out a resounding “Yes,” and they show you how they’re doing it in YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip, a documentary screening not once, but twice, at Oklahoma City’s deadCENTER Film Festival this week. For screening locations and times click here.

The tagline describes the film like this:

50 states. 1 year. Zero waste. Three friends on an environmental road trip across America in search of extraordinary innovators tackling humanity’s greatest crises.

That intriguing sound bite and the film’s trailer convinced me that not only did I need to see this film, but that it’d be cool to find out more about this project straight from the filmmakers. Lucky for us Okies, Dixon, one of the filmmakers, will be on hand Fri., June 10, from 4-6 p.m. at Elemental Coffee, 815 N. Hudson, in downtown Oklahoma City, to discuss the making of the film, which won the Audience Award at the Yale Environmental Film Festival. The informal Meet & Greet is organized by Transition OKC a program of Sustainable OKC. Coffee and snacks will be available to purchase from Elemental Coffee. yert

Giveaway alert.

First ten people at the Meet & Greet win a reusable YERT ChicoBag, and Dixon will also be giving away two copies of Better World Shopping Guide by Ellis Jones.

Advance chat.

As a lead-in to the screenings and Meet & Greet, I got to do a little early Q&A with Dixon and his colleague, Ben Evans, producers and directors of the film, and am featuring part one of that email interview here. Stay tuned for more.

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Photo credit: Rich Press

Q: How did the idea for this project develop – specifically from inception (the germ of the idea) – to actual “We’re going to make this happen” implementation? And what or who do you credit – in addition to yourselves — for encouraging, supporting, making the idea reality?

Group answer.

All three of us were really starting to get worried about the state of the planet and not feeling like we were doing enough about it in our respective careers. A video road trip to explore sustainability seemed like an interesting way to educate ourselves and others about all kinds of encouraging solutions to the urgent environmental problems facing humanity, a good way to discover hidden pockets hope and inspiration and share them quickly and widely. We weren’t sure what we’d find in all the nooks and crannies of the country, but we were determined to have fun finding it.

Ben’s more personal take.

I credit my mother for instilling in me a strong sense of environmental concern and a general interest in creative solutions to repairing humanity’s relationship with the planet. When she died from cancer in 2004, it really lit a fire under me to start living my beliefs more fully and focusing my life on issues of lasting importance. I’d been an actor in New York and Los Angeles for a number of years and had started kicking around ideas for a bunch of different environmental endeavors with a creative bent. I packed up my life in New York and co-created YERT with Mark as a way to marry my love of creative entertainment and performance with my long-standing concern for environmental issues. I really wanted to stop worrying and start doing something about the problems.

Mark’s more personal take.

I was a newbie to the environmental movement and was struggling to understand where I fit into a world faced with so many troubling ecological symptoms. I quit my job in an attempt to re-direct my life and lifestyle, but it wasn’t until halfway through a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat that the idea for a national road trip documentary project dropped into my head. I quickly checked the idea with friends and family (all of whom were very supportive– particularly my parents), and that’s when Ben jumped at the opportunity to help shape the adventure in its early form. A year later, after intensive planning, preparation and a few videos under our belts, we embarked on Your Environmental Road Trip – YERT.

Q: With all the environmental films and documentaries that seem to be hitting the market almost every day, why did you decide this project was worth pursuing?

A: There’s a lot of doom and gloom out there in traditional environmental organizations and films, and many of these issues have become needlessly politicized. We wanted to cut through all that with humor, visiting with regular people on the street, and by turning ourselves into guinea pigs on the trip. Really the project is an effort to personalize these issues in a way that can reach out to people who, for whatever reason, aren’t part of the conversation yet.

Q: When did you start and end the project and how old were you when you started?

A: It’s been almost five years from the first germ of the idea to the premiere. The idea germinated in summer 2006 and we prepped for a year before leaving on the trip in July 2007. The film premiered in April 2011. At the start of the trip on July 4, 2007, Mark was 32,  Ben was 37, and Julie was 38.

Q: How did you fund your trip and the year off for traveling and exploring?

A: We basically pooled our savings and begged friends and family for contributions. Ben and Julie had been working as stage actors in New York City and Mark had been working in Silicon Valley saving for a house and grad school in California at the time, so that provided the bulk of the funding. We’re all pretty much broke at this point, but hopefully screening at great festivals like deadCENTER will help start to change that.

More insider YERT scoop to come so check back soon.

– Posted by Shauna Lawyer Struby. This post originally appeared on Thinklady.