Written by: Russell Davidson, CC2K Sports Editor
In the wake of such environmental disaster documentaries as An Inconvenient Truth, Flow, and Food, Inc., comes one a little easier to swallow, No Impact Man. Following Colin Beavan and family as they attempt to live a no-to-low impact existence, No Impact Man raises familiar concerns about how we are damaging our planet, but shows it to us on a smaller, more personal scale, not with big science or big sweeping ideas, and it’s this more individual approach that makes the film entertaining and fun, all the better to get it’s point across.
We all are somewhat aware of the disposable culture we live in. We all take out the garbage, drive cars, order take-out. But instead of just bemoaning the waste, Beavan attempts an experiment. Indeed, how does one lower their impact on the environment so that our systems are sustainable, not doomed?
Dragging his somewhat reluctant meta-consumer wife and two year-old daughter along for the ride, Beavan starts small. No more disposable containers, so no more take-out. No TV (a hard pill for his wife, hooked on reality shows, to ingest). No more riding in cars, no more airplanes. No more throw-away diapers. Eventually this leads to no more electricity, until he hooks up a solar panel. What they learn, and as viewers, what we learn, too, is that the way we live, particularly in a capitalist society, is seriously harmful to the planet and to ourselves. Overflowing landfills, kids with asthma, the Greenhouse effect, obesity, these are all the costs of consumerism. But, as Beavan shows, these things can be fixed, one person at a time. No Impact Man is a call to arms.
Interestingly, as Beavan and family go forward with their experiment, the media comes in to dissect it. He goes on TV talking about it, is written off by some as a fringe wacko, as evil, anti-American by others, championed by still others. He seems genuinely surprised as his personal quest goes big-time. But he runs with it.
This is where the film succeeds: its approach. Beavan doesn’t come out with a lecture, wagging his finger at us. You almost get the sense that he’s an unwilling participant, wanting to do the right thing, but not wanting to put himself or his family so much into the public eye. Let’s give him credit for this. By showing the daily ups and downs of living a less-impact life, we can relate, we can see ourselves wanting to do similar things. There’s humor here, there’s a struggle, there are triumphs. When the family discovers cycling as an alternative to cars, a whole new New York City opens up to them. When their apartment gets too hot and boring, they head outside, they go to the beach, the park, hang with friends.
So it’s not all dismal work. The benefits of a low-impact life flower in front of them, and they’re all the better for it. What is shown is that it is possible to change and still be happy. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as turning off our electricity, but it does take a change of mindset, a realizing of what’s truly important in life. Hey, it’s our planet, the only one we got. Maybe it’s time to clean it up, one less tissue at a time.