I highly recommend trying to catch a screening of Cathy Henkel’s The Burning Season at the Tribeca Film Festival. Not only does the documentary provide the most intelligible explanation of carbon trading I’ve seen to date, it presents climate change not as an unavoidable doomsday scenario filled with drowning polar bears, but as a problem with practical business solutions that can be tackled through the leadership of some extraordinary people. One of these people is the charismatic young eco-entrepreneur Dorjee Sun, who aside from perhaps the adorable baby orangutans in nappies, ends up stealing most of the show.
The camera trails Dorjee as he races around the globe with a backpack in an effort to convince one Very Important Person after another to support his plan to monetize the forests of Indonesia as a sort of global “septic tank” to absorb all the carbon in our rapidly warming atmosphere, rather than to exploit it as a source of highly polluting palm oil. The argument goes that by incentivizing farmers to protect their forests through the sale of carbon credits instead of burning it off for palm oil profit, we can bring about a reduction in greenhouse gases that is far more significant than trying to get people to give up driving and flying. As a gentleman from the organization Forests Now puts it, forests are essentially a global utility (a massive carbon-absorbing machine) that benefits everyone, and should therefore be viewed as a service we need to pay for, similar to other utilities like water and electricity. Dorjee talks the ears off of everyone from Howard Schultz to Paul Wolfowitz about his carbon trading scheme without anyone committing the big budget backing he needs–until a besuited knight on a bull saves the day in the form of…Merrill Lynch! Fantastic cinema! Only wait…this stuff really happened. Did I mention the film is narrated by Hugh Jackman, a.k.a. Wolverine?
Hopefully this inspiring film will get a wider cinema release and be seen by a lot more people. Also, if you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to help, check out the site Ten Things You Can Do, scheduled to go live in June. As Cathy explained, it will be a list of things you can proactively do, not a laundry list of guilt-inducing things you shouldn’t be doing. Finally, props to Crumpler for sponsoring TFF and hosting a great post-screening reception at their West Village store, complete with Aussie meat pies and Lamingtons. They even had a shuttle bus transporting guests to and from the screening that ran on vegetable oil. Serious greenie points!