Clean energy, the great convener: Director Peter Byck says we are not as polarized as we think


Last month, film director Peter Byck visited ASU Tempe campus to speak to an audience about lessons learned from touring and filming his documentary Carbon Nation. Byck toured the nation and interviewed over 300 people (only 61 people were actually used in the movie) to speak on behalf of climate change solutions. In his findings, Byck supported evidence that both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. are not polarized on the issue. In fact, there is vast agreement across the political spectrum when it comes to supporting clean energy initiatives and energy efficiency.

Carbon Nation boldly claims that the documentary is a “climate change solutions movie—that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” When reading that over, it may seem a bit confusing. How can the film focus on climate change, but not care if viewers actually believe in climate change? Despite scientific research proving for it, it is indeed a fact that climate change skepticism is still alive and well in the U.S.

Peter Byck became a strong believer in climate change in 2007 after seeing previous presidential candidate Al Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. For a long time, Byck could not believe that others would disagree with scientific evidence supporting global warming and climate change. He, like many people who approach the seemingly polarized subject of climate change, points out the differences between the yeasayers and the naysayers, as those who believe in climate change are liberals and those who do not are conservatives. That claim may still stick today, but Byck found something even more interesting regarding climate change while conducting his research for Carbon Nation. Although there may always be dispute when it comes to Americans regarding climate change as a “real issue,” Byck found that an overwhelming amount of people who did not believe in climate change did in fact believe in climate change solutions. The relationship that the U.S. has in supporting clean energy and energy efficiency initiatives is truly an optimistic one. “Currently, 90% of Americans want more solar energy,” said Byck. “People think we are not in agreement with each other, but we already are.”

The agreement that people have in climate change solutions is precisely the focus of Carbon Nation. Instead of giving viewers an element of scare tactics that climate change is taking its course (cue before and after pictures of Greenland), he examines climate change solutions of alternative energy producers and energy efficiency experts across the nation. The core of this film is made up of the people he interviews, ranging from a rural Texas wind farmer to multi-millionaire Sir Richard Branson and just about everyone in between. These people tell a story that concludes that even if you do not believe in climate change, at the end of the day reducing carbon usage and its emissions is simply common sense. Although Carbon Nation is an inspiring look at the many recent advances in clean energy and green technologies, this film above all leaves viewers with a feeling of national collectiveness and that climate change solutions and energy efficiency initiatives are indeed bipartisan issues.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Photo by Carbon Nation

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