It is mind-boggling that any issues pertaining to our survival are still a matter of debate when the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report states that our influence on climate change is real and that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are at their highest in history. In other words, global warming is undeniable: Glaciers are receding at an unprecedented rate, the ocean and atmosphere are warming, and the sea level has risen (and continues to do so) as emissions continue to increase.

Certain issues, such as climate change, need to be revisited time and time again, and stories need to be told – in different ways – until they leave their mark. Such is the case with the new documentary, Running on Climate, by filmmaker Robert Alstead. The film addresses environmental concerns not just as a tale of woe and doom but of hope and the pursuit of change from the roots up.

runningonclimateFeaturing Andrew Weaver, PhD, a Canadian climate scientist, Nobel prize winner and (since 2013) BC Green Party MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head on Vancouver Island, Running on Climate ties environmental and climate change issues with politics in a way that could not be more complementary to the present day political Canadian landscape – and also highly needed, as the 2015 federal elections are around the corner.

The message is unequivocal: With federal elections less than a month away and mounting evidence of Canada’s contribution to global climate change via the relentless pursuit of fossil fuels, people need to pay attention to what lies ahead. From an environmental perspective, things will only get worse unless change is implemented, and soon.

But the documentary is hardly just a cautionary tale about global warming. Alstead tells the story of a community that has always had a penchant for living green but chose to turn greener during the provincial elections in 2013. It also tells the story of scientists turned activists turned politicians, and why they did so. They watched the unfortunate metamorphosis of British Columbia from a green policymaker into a “carbon corridor” for the export of fossil fuels such as coal, liquid natural gas and bitumen.

What Running on Climate does and does well is show that the new generation of politicians are concerned with more than just politics. Their breed has emerged from a deep environmental concern that remains invisible to many of today’s government leaders. They come from a place of need, recognizing the science behind climate change and realizing that, unless they get involved as activists (or initially as activists, as in the case of Lynn Quarmby, PhD, SFU Professor and Green Party Candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour) or get involved in politics, change will lag or never happen – and neither is an option.

Running on Climate presents civil disobedience not as act of gratuitous bravery but as a necessity for those who recognize that climate change is the catalyst for the biggest economic and humanitarian crisis of our time.

Photo Credit: Robert Alstead / Running on Climate

Photo Credit: Robert Alstead / Running on Climate

A key message that resurfaces throughout the documentary is that the choice is limited: We have to come to grips with our current situation or continue the crash course we’ve been on since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution – and even more so during the last decades when the Northern Hemisphere reached an unprecedented the 400ppm in carbon dioxide emissions.

And who better to address the current situation and become an engine for change than those who can bring facts and figures to the table? With the string of indignities that Canadian scientists have been subjected to during what has been condemned as unprecedented and profoundly un-Canadian muzzling, it seems fitting that the fight for change has to come from within. 

Interweaving climate change details with a personal case study of an electoral campaign that took place on Vancouver Island, producer Robert Alstead and co-producer Jo Clarke created the kind of pre-election tutorial we all need to revisit before October 19. We all need to know about vote-splitting and why “every vote counts,” and we need to see how a bunch of well-meaning ambitious volunteers can make green policies visible – so that we can run and influence our future on the next election day. 

Delta Port, the biggest coal exporter in North America. (Photo: Robert Alstead / Running on Climate)

Deltaport, located in Roberts Bank, Vancouver, is the biggest coal exporter in North America. (Photo: Robert Alstead / Running on Climate)

A tale of hope, Running on Climate is worth watching and learning from. It debunks the myth that election campaigns can only survive when funded by corporations and shows how a cause bigger than life brings people together, empowers them to seek change and pursue the one thing that’s worth everything to us all: Survival.

Running on Climate is available nationwide in Canada starting September 22, 2015. You can watch the trailer here and rent/buy the movie on Vimeo here. Stay tuned for further information on release dates for the US and worldwide.

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