I spoke with documentary filmmaker Susan Kucera about her recent film Living in the Future’s Past, an artistic collaboration with Jeff Bridges and a tapestry of experts on planetary well-being, science, evolution, emergence, energy, psychology, and more. Do watch and listen. Nature changes, our small planet changes, humans, ecosystems, environment, and animals also change — and adapt. Do we humans have the swift adaptation skills necessary for a massive climatic disruption?
Susan believes her film offers an invitation. It is an invitation to adapt, more swiftly. Living in the Future’s Past, the Susan Kucera and Jeff Bridges collaboration does not put guilt and blame on the psyche. The film enlightens and encourages each small effort toward environmental discernment gently. As Jeff believes, “it’s not fear that should drive us to act, it’s love.”
— Living in the Future's Past (@LITFPfilm) October 3, 2018
It is an invitation to process the underlying motivations holding one back from a grounded forward movement, more unfettered by those unconscious links that keep addiction and self-sabotaging habits in play. For those of us with children, Jeff Bridges pulls our heart and soul cords, “We love our children, don’t we?” Each of the individual experts enlightens the viewer to the inner comprehensive workings and emergent behaviors of the super-organism of civilization as it functions past and present.
Piers Sellers, Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA, Meteorologist, and Astronaut, believes we are going to have massive climatic disruption. “The rainfall belts will move.
“When you look at the horizon, you see a very, very thin little blue ribbon of atmosphere. It really brings home to you — it was a shock to me and I’m a scientist, I thought I had all the scales worked out intellectually, but it was a shock to me to see how thin the atmosphere is and how, obviously, its easily affected by what we do.”
Dr. Rich Pancost, professor of Bio Gio chemistry, pushes on with the message. He believes, “The issue is not what the world is like when it’s cold or warm. It is a dramatic transition.”
He educates: “But we don’t have those transitions in the history of the planet, not before as we expect now.” We are comparing the last “rapid climate shift” of 40,000 years to what we believe is presently ongoing and it is the same shift actively happening in a mere 100 years.
Adaptation in humans may not be quite up to speed with the swift adaptation needed. We do not have the Leeloo-like ability, the ability of a superhero for immediate adaptation.
One of the many beautiful parts of the film is the invitation to join the conversation of faith and science. Bob Inglis, a former Republican Congressman from South Carolina and founder of the Enterprise and Energy Initiative, smiles, “I don’t see science as challenging my faith, I see it as affirming my faith.”
Susan reminds us, “It takes a certain kind of people to usher in the new stuff.” She is one of them. It’s time to make plans for the release of this documentary, to see the sublime tapestry of a documentary that stimulates your vital force, and wills engagement, wills transformation in daily life. Do it for yourself and immerse yourself with the woven beauty of the film. Find more strength through the eloquent if sometimes disturbing voices of many, and gain information that offers increasing knowledge in anthropology, science, history, energy, emergence, and entropy while enjoying Jeff Bridge’s wise older voice as narrator.
Get out to see the documentary and recall why you keep that lighter footprint. Take a friend to encourage more with your lighter footprints on our small planet earth. This film appeals to our movements as planetary guests.
Susan Kucera, the film’s director, relates, “We want people to take the information and apply it to their own lives in unique and creative ways. Desire takes on new meaning the more we understand our subconscious motivations. I hope people see the film — regardless of political affiliation. Living in the Future’s Past will spark thought. Because of the varied nature of the film, nobody is, or should be, walking away with the same thing.”
“‘Do not eat your seed corn’ is an old saying,” explains Dr.Ugo Bardi Professor of Physical Chemistry, University of Florence, Italy.
And Jeff Bridges inquires, “Are we eating our seed corn?’
Dr. Ugo Bardi continues, “You have to think for the future, you have to save something for the future in order to have a harvest of renewable energy.”
Dr. Bardi invites, dancing his hands in the air,
“We are just transient entities which appear to move a little bit and then disappear. That’s the way the system works. And we have this chance to be alive, to move on this planet, to do things on this planet, to create things on this planet because we have this gigantic flux of energy coming from the sun.”
Yes, a chance, a change, and what has become of this sunlight feeding our vitality? Jeff Bridges describes solar flows — sunlight hitting the earth and photosynthesis — “our bodies were a product of the current sunlight of the day (in centuries past).” He moves this conversation to the present day change from pure sunlight to fossil sunlight.
Jeff Bridges explains more of fossil sunlight, “We’re mining this ancient sunlight from mining a very brief period of human history.” Susan notes how our thinking has shifted, from that of the health and well-being we had from pure sunlight to today’s reality.
Dr. Nathan Hagens, Director of the Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future, explains how we are now:
“A chemical composition of 50% of the protein in our bodies. 80% nitrogen in our bodies indirectly comes from the chemical signature of this fossil sunlight that we are mining. So we are different than our ancestors. They were made of sunlight, we are made of fossil fuels.”
He labels for us the “fossil slaves,” noting that “fossils slaves poop and breathe, and their breath is causing our biosphere to warm up and our oceans to acidify.”
There is so much useful education in Susan’s documentary and Jeff’s collaborative narrative. With Bridges’ down-to-earth ability to express his humanity without pretension, I may do several articles on their work. But today, I want to hear more of Susan’s work and her creative process. To motivate people is a tremendous undertaking, and to move them out of the overwhelming, the depression of stasis, is what I believe she does with this film.
I liken the experience of the film to some energy work I use, based in Native American traditions. The comparison is natural for me, as this style of energy work demands acceptance, grounded awareness of troubles, not avoidance, but serves to join one’s vital force in the conversation through enlightenment and positive movement forward. I think Susan’s work contributes to the conversation of climate change in this way — and to accept her invitation to have “agency” in one’s life, in one’s daily journey, is essential.
Leading into our back and forth, to my suggestion that her work, as an environmental film concerned with climate change, was effectively positive, more than many other documentaries that are valuable in their own ways but not as empowering.
Susan responds to an initial question, “You know, when you’re in a space where you’re not all freaked out, you can actually have a conversation about the reality of things, and the reality of energy and be able to carve a path forward.”
I remarked, “Yes, it can feel like a quicksand, a precarious balance between the quicksand of being in denial and instead — using your word, “agency” — being able to gain one’s agency in the world and move forward is the trick. What do you believe is the most powerful part of filmmaking that works on the psyche of people, as a filmmaker?”
“I think that for me this film is interactive — so you’re not just a person sitting in an audience consuming something. You‘re actually being invited to think, to use your higher powers for reasoning. What I keep hearing back from people is that they’ll see the film and it has given them other things to think about, not just factoids that seem to change every day — but how to co-ordinate yourself into the fabric of life, and it gives you more of a sense of agency. It gives you the idea that we are all driving the ‘bus’ and not just passengers. People like to feel like they have agency. And we actually do. We just sort of forget that.”
I mentioned myth busting (one of the focuses of CleanTechnica). I mentioned those people that crack through and disrupt the fossil fuel industry, such as Elon Musk. And we spoke more on living a different way as we transition.
Susan’s insightfully responds,
“I think a lot of the film looks at what it would take to do an energy transition right. You actually need a lot of heat and energy and resources just to make a solar panel. So then you look at fossil fuels maybe in a different way. Fossil fuel is a big amount of energy we need now to usher in something new. We need to invest energy to get energy and we need to think about where we invest the energy we have, our relationships with energy.
“For example, I edited part of the film on solar energy (solar panels on the house) so I’m aware that if I want to harness the solar energy without a battery backup, I have to work when it’s sunny. So then you become more aware of intermittency. You become more aware that things don’t always function so smoothly like fossil fuels, which give us lots of energy all the time. And maybe we need to get used to not having that kind of energy all the time.”
What Jeff and I wanted to do was think about how we think. A lot of people watch the film and they go, “Aha! I see how everything works and it’s not so weirdly scary,” which makes transition more interactive and more full of exciting possibilities.
I dig deeper: “People are so exhausted, they’re getting cancer, so do you have any words of wisdom as a filmmaker? You are looking at very profound, troubling subjects, that other people don’t even want to look at? What do you do to contribute to your vital force that keeps you picking yourself up looking at some depressing subjects?”
Susan’s thoughtful response starts with reflections on emotion. “I find — emoting is something we all do and we all need. But emoting for emoting sake doesn’t help. When you are feeling positive but in a realistic way, and you understand, ‘Okay, this is what we’re dealing with.’ That’s much easier than being sadly hooked in. I think one of the things this film does is it gives you a sense of empathy and understanding for other people.”
Long interested in compassionate filmmaking, I asked, “Can you share a part of your creative process, your agency?” Susan:
“I’ve been filming since I was 9 with my father. And for me looking through the lens, you can see the world in this different way. Even people. You meet someone in person, but when the camera’s on them, it’s a whole different world. You can capture things in nature that go unnoticed too. We are all part of the mesh, that’s why I had so much of the plant and animal life in the film to remind us.”
Susan speaks to a gentle image by the philosopher Timothy Morton:
“One of my favorite quotes in the film is from Timothy Morton, where he says philosophy isn’t just something up in here (pointing to his head); philosophy is everywhere in built space.”
I go back to the narration. “I felt Jeff Bridges was an incredible choice as a narrator, his grounded appeal, older, wiser voice lacking pretension.”
Susan agrees, “Jeff Bridges was an amazing collaborator and we were fortunate we had a great executive producer, Jim Swift.”
I expressed appreciation, “It was executed so well. So energetically positive with an intense subject. Do you have a favorite part of the film?”
Still considering the question while responding, “Well, I don’t know, there’s quite a few parts. I like the part about emergence and optimal foraging theory, and the entire section on energy and also psychology. The entire documentary is instructive— it’s helped me in my daily life.”
How are we all part of the system in the time of swift change? Dr. Piers Sellers Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA Meteorologist and Astronaut hastens our glimpses of the future that is upon us, harboring with his soft-spoken words educational wealth that our present head of the Union lacks doors and windows to even open up to, let alone welcome in.
On the opposite side of the Republican spectrum on this topic, former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was essentially chased out of Congress by his own party and then founded the Enterprise and Energy Initiative, communicates messages that should belong to all political domains — if only they all could see and hear that this is about humanity and the world, not partisan politics.
Kind wishes to all, and a sincere thank you to the varied profound thinkers and doers involved in the film:
Jeff Bridges — Actor, Artist, Producer
Humanitarian Dr. Piers Sellers — Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA Meteorologist and Astronaut (IN MEMORIAM)
Wesley Clark — General, US Army (Ret.) former NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Oren Lyons — Environmental Activist Professor of American Studies
Dr. Timothy Morton — Philosopher; Professor, Rice University; Texas Author, Humankind and Dark Ecology
Bob Inglis — Former (R) Congressman, South Carolina; Founder, Enterprise and Energy Initiative
Dr. Rich Pancost — Head of School of Earth Sciences; Professor of Biogeochemistry (Earth Systems); Director of the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, Bristol, UK
Dr. Ruth Gates — Marine Biologist; Director, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, The University of Hawaii at Manoa
Dr. Renee Lertzman — Author, Environmental Melancholia
Dr. Leonard Mlodinow — Physicist and Author, The Upright Thinkers
Dr. Bruce Hood — Professor of Developmental Psychology, University of Bristol; UK Author, The Self Illusion
Dr. Mark Plotkin — Ethnobotanist President, Amazon Conservation Team
Dr. Amy Jacobson — Evolutionary Anthropologist, Human Behavioral Ecologist
Daniel Goleman — Psychologist; Science Journalist; Author, Emotional Intelligence
Dr. Stephan Lewandowsky — Professor of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol, UK DR.
Nathan Hagens — Director, Institute for the Study of Energy and Our Future; Co-Founder, Bottleneck Foundation; Ph.D., Natural Resources; Reality 101, University of Minnesota Honors Program
Dr. Joseph Tainter — Professor of Anthropology; Author, Collapse of Complex Societies
Dr. Ugo Bardi — Professor of Physical Chemistry, University of Florence, Italy
Paul Roberts — Journalist; Author, End of Oil and The Impulse Society
Dr. Ian Robertson — Cognitive Neuroscientist; Co-Director, Global Brain Health Institute Professor Emeritus, Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience