In the film, thinkers and activists on the world stage offer a “big-picture analysis” of the effects of globalization, while suggesting a message of hope for the future. Representing the interests of a majority of the planet’s people are Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben and others with their fingers on the pulse of socioeconomic/environmental conditions, who call a systemic shift away from globalizing economic activity and toward localization an “almost-magic formula” that will allow us to reduce our ecological footprint while enhancing our quality of life.
Film writer/director Gorelick points to the 1972 publication of the book The Limits to Growth, written by Donella Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers and William W. Behrens III, as his personal wake-up call to the massive changes that were inevitable, should variables like world population, industrialization, pollution, food production and resource depletion continue at the then-current rate. “The only thing that made a difference,” he says, referring to hypothetical alterations, “was to stabilize economic growth. This set me on an unconventional career path and into appropriate technology in the Third World. I volunteered with the Ladakh Project – now called International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC) – for a summer in 1987, and have been involved in the organization ever since.”
Gorelick describes how ISEC’s founder Norberg-Hodge began working in Ladakh just after it had been opened to the outside world. Before the 1960s, the area had been geographically isolated, politically untouched and essentially left to its own devices – which worked well for the people. There was no poverty, no unemployment, no environmental degradation. Immediately after it was opened to development, all this sustainability broke down within ten years, the root causes directly related to the influx of Western economics.
When asked how we privileged Westerners, the perpetrators of globalization, can hope to stem the devastating tide of such effects in Third World societies – and whether we even have the right to expect others to self-govern – he says, “Clearly, we’re all hooked to a greater or lesser extent. The purpose of the film is to make it clear to people that if they care about their grandchildren’s future, if they care about the planet and its health, they really need to focus on how the global economy is making everything worse.” The message of hope offered by Gorelick, Norberg-Hodge and everyone else involved in The Economics of Happiness is exemplified in scenes of people taking back some element of control of their lives through the localization of their economies.
Gorelick is now the US program director for the ISEC, the author of Small is Beautiful, Big is Subsidized and other titles. He holds the Cyrus Fisher Tolman professorship in the School of Earth Sciences at Stanford University, where he has been on the faculty for more than 20 years. In 2005, he was named a Guggenheim fellow for his study of global oil depletion. A fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, he has been selected twice as a Fulbright senior scholar for studies of water resources issues in Australia. He has worked in the solar energy industry, is an adjunct professor at Sterling College and operates a small-scale organic farm with his wife and children.
The Transition Film Series was started by local activist Deena Wade. “I’d never organized a film series before,” she says, “so I just jumped in, and continue to learn as I go. The first film we watched was No Impact Man by Colin Beaven. I had no idea if anyone would show up beyond my two best girlfriends, but 25 people came, and each month, people keep coming. In the spirit of community, before each film we turn to someone next to us and introduce ourselves. After each film, we circle up and talk about the film and its implications in our lives and our community. I always say that we can watch a movie at home by ourselves, so really, the most important part of the evening isn’t the film, but the community that develops around it.”
Realizing that The Economics of Happiness needed a larger audience in our community, she contacted the Rosendale Theatre about screening it there. “When I found out that Steve Gorelick lives in Vermont, I asked if he would come and participate in the screening. He gladly agreed.” Gorelick will conduct a question-and-answer session after the screening in Rosendale. There will be books, including the Transition Handbook, and other items for sale at the event. A suggested donation of $10 per person is requested. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.