RenewUS: A Climate Movie with a Happy Ending (Really)

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by: Joel Makower

Here's the assignment: You've got four minutes to get millions of busy, information-overloaded citizens concerned about climate change and motivated to take action. How would you do it?

Wait, there's more. You can use humor, but it can't be fall-down funny, since this isn't exactly a humorous topic.

You can relate the gravity of the situation, but it can't be all doom and gloom, since that doesn't inspire people to take action. You can relate the science — the cause-and-effect relationships between human behavior and the planet's changing climate — but you can't geek out on it without losing most of your audience.

Most of all, you have to give viewers a sense of hope — a glimpse of all that's possible if companies, citizens, and their political leaders dig in and start moving in the right direction.

I'm proud to announce the launch of a four-minute movie that attempts to address these myriad challenges: a flash movie I produced in partnership with Stonyfield Farm, the yogurt company, along with two nonprofits, Earth Day Network and Clean Air-Cool Planet. The movie is part of an ambitious campaign to mobilize citizens to take mass actions to change — or circumvent — our political and corporate leaders' tepid response to climate change.

The movie tells the story of how "2006 was the year that changed everything," when citizens — frustrated with our leaders' slow response to climate change — come together on the Internet to buy clean power. That unleashes a succession of positive changes, as utilities scramble to build wind and solar farms, individuals make fortunes investing in new clean-tech companies, and even old dinosaurs (like Ford and McDonald's — see image above) find profit in clean, green technology.

It's a pretty cool flick, if I do say so myself.

The project began a couple of years ago, in a conversation with Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm's VP of Natural Resources, and her brother, Gary Hirshberg, the company's president and "CE-yo." I've known them both for years and have been a big fan of Stonyfield (and its products), especially the company's longstanding leadership in environmental and social issues. Gary and Nancy shared their frustration with the lack of national leadership on climate change, the absence of public outrage, and the inertia in political capitals and corporate boardrooms.

Earlier that year, Free Range Graphics had launched a highly successful flash movie, The Meatrix, which exposed more than 10 million people to the problems of factory farming. We thought it was time to do the same thing for climate change. I asked Free Range's principals, Louis Fox and Jonah Sachs, to create a movie that met all of the above objectives. It was a struggle — one of the toughest challenges I've ever faced as a writer and communicator — but I feel that we've met our objectives. I hope you agree.

I encourage you to view the movie and sign up with the RenewUS campaign. You'll receive a monthly action alert — something significant that you can do to move companies, markets, political leaders, if hundreds of thousands of us do it at the same time.

I also would be grateful if you would help us get the word out about the movie through organizations, listservs, blogs, and other outlets in which you belong or have influence.

We're billing the movie as "the most important four minutes you'll spend this year."

Well, except, perhaps, for voting.

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