Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Pitzer College screens the FUEL film

Last Saturday I trekked out to Claremont for an event at Pitzer College. Frankly, I didn't consider it a trek, even if the 210 tried to make it so. But when I got there, people kept asking me if I was from out of town. "Are you from out of town?" "No, I'm from Los Angeles." "That's what I mean."

Out of town or not, I love Border Grill food, and my friends. Not in that order.

The event was Pitzer's screening of FUEL. Film director Josh Tickell, you might know, if you're a big Matt Lauer fan: he appeared on the Today show when he drove a veggie van (and later, a veggie bus). They were giving tours of the veggie bus, which touts alternative fuel inside. The film was named best documentary at Sundance.

An algae car sat nearby. Well, part run on algae fuel. Refined by Sapphire Energy, the fuel has hydrocarbons in it, refined from algal crude. It sat next to the Mounds, where the Pitzer kids chillax.

Josh Tickell and his wife Rebecca introduced their film, and they referenced Hurricane Katrina. Here's something Tickell told Sustainablog about Katrina's effect on him a ways back:

The 2nd defining moment was Hurricane Katrina. And really, it was the experience of it, rather than what came after. I thought, this is what it looks like when you talk about the effects of climate change. On top of that, I was seeing the places I knew ... so radically altered and an entire community in a state of shock. I realized that we are not equipped to deal with the results of climate change. People were walking around like cave people, walking in rubble, wearing found clothing, and this included people with Ph.D.s and 6 figure incomes. It was a huge shift.

My inner lawyer always likes to scream it's more complicated. It's not just climate changing; flooding happened because we're not always good at flood risk and infrastructure. But if that's the lesson he got out of that storm, I can't object.

After taking questions in Pitzer's schmancy new auditorium (used, but renewed), the filmmakers got swarmed. I'd characterize the audience as full of friendlies, granted. But it was interesting to see the amount of enthusiasm generated by their statement of the issues.

I didn't ask any questions; I thought I'd get a one-on-one chance to talk to them, but the crowd overwhelmed. The one question I'd want to ask is how Tickell chose to feature the specific companies he did in the film, whether it was a personal relationship, or a business deal, or a little of both. A lot of companies are developing algal fuel. And the MegaFlora tree, for example, has a little bit of the "and the streets were paved with gold" aspect to it: not really explained, but it could solve a lot of our problems. Of course I'm skeptical. Did this film work to introduce all this stuff to people who don't already believe in it? I dunno. I don't know how many of those people had seen it.

The Pitzer community did ask some good questions. I was happy I stuck around for that. When the questions got a little hard, Tickell fell back on what I think, for him, is the bottom line: the point, he said, is that he wants people to reimagine what they think they know about energy, to think harder about the way they live. I mean, hey: as is written in Plato's Apology, the unexamined life is not worth living. I can get behind that much.

Rebecca Tickell is coming back to Pitzer later this month to talk about women in green business.

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