In Which Christie Brinkley Talks Climate Change & National Defense (#CleanTechnica Interview Part 1)

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If you’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the new climate change documentary Paris to Pittsburgh, go see for yourself when it premiers internationally on December 12. In the meantime, CleanTechnica was invited to last night’s jam-packed screening in New York and while waiting a turn to speak with some of the people involved in making the film we happened to catch Christie Brinkley in conversation.

Ms. Brinkley captured the essence of Paris to Pittsburgh with a quick burst of pithy, off-the-cuff observations, so before we get to some of those other folks we’ll start with her (comments lightly edited for flow and clarity):

CleanTechnica: What makes you hopeful about the future?

Brinkley: Just talking to people here tonight makes me hopeful, because there is something happening. People are coming together.

But, we still need to switch out this president and get someone who understands the issues. A Department of Defense report on climate change came out 20 years ago, and they buried the new National Climate Assessment on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

They talk about the economy. How are you going to have an economy when there is no air to breathe, there are no islands for those vacations, and people are struggling for food?

Paris To Pittsburgh

Did you get all that? Paris to Pittsburgh is two sides of the same coin. It paints a truly horrifying picture of the impacts of climate change and the fossil fuel industry right now — rising sea levels, wildfires, air pollution — and makes the point that these impacts are falling on people with privilege as well as those without.

The film also excoriates President* Trump and his cabinet for turning back the climate action clock (and a lot of other environmental clocks, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).

Above all, though, Paris to Pittsburgh sends a message to the world: the American people are coming together and fighting for decarbonization, and they are going to win, Trump or no Trump.

As for the economy, it looks like Ms. Brinkley has been talking to Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of the green investor organization Ceres. In a recent conversation with CleanTechnica, Ms. Lubber said pretty much the same thing: “There is no economy if cities are under water.”

The Economic Case For Action On Climate Change

Paris To Pittsburgh really does cover a lot of ground, and one of those grounds is making the economic case for clean energy.

Part of that case involves creating jobs — good paying jobs — for people in rural communities and communities of color, who would otherwise find their career paths blocked.

Rural communities get another shoutout when the film talks about the interest of rural electric cooperatives in renewable energy.

Yet another part of the case reflects something that CleanTechnica cottoned on to back in 2011: the decarbonization battle is not just a clash between concerned citizens and an entrenched global industry. It’s also a knock ’em down, drag ’em out slugfest between the world’s corporate behemoths — including but not limited to tech giants like IBM, Facebook, and Apple.

Don’t just take our word for it. Inc. Magazine took a look at Paris to Pittsburgh and decided it was one of the top eight business documentaries — yes, that’s business documentaries — for 2018.

Paris to Pittsburgh appears at #1 on the Inc. list with this observation:

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate agreement, this documentary follows the individuals fighting the impacts of climate change in their own backyards. The film also focuses on small-business owners in Iowa who have embraced renewable energy to keep their businesses competitive and a nonprofit in California that helps businesses hire former inmates trained in solar panel installation.

Climate Change And The DoD

Well, there is a lot more to Paris to Pittsburgh than that but whatever.

There are a couple of interesting holes in the film, though. Nuclear energy does not get so much as a mention (sorry, Bill!), and natural gas does not make the cut (shocker!).

Probably because the film is focused on local-to-state level action as opposed to federal action, the Department of Defense doesn’t get a mention. That makes sense, but DoD presents an interesting case under the file, “Commander-in-Chief Ignored By DoD On Climate Change.”

Circling back around to Ms. Brinkley’s observation about the Department of Defense, Paris to Pittsburgh starts with a montage of footage demonstrating that climate change was a concern and its potential impacts were reported in the general media as far back as the 1950s.

That awareness all but certainly included the US Department of Defense, considering that our mighty Navy — you know, the one that did something in World War II — would be (and now is) on the front lines of climate change.

DoD is in fact an early adopter of clean tech. In particular, during President Obama’s tenure in the White House, Navy Secretary Ray Maybus emerged as an eloquent, forceful voice for action on global warming.

Certain members of Congress (okay so the Republicans) tried to stymie the Navy’s quest for alternative fuels, but the Navy and the rest of the Armed Services are still pushing ahead with energy efficiency and renewable energy as a matter of national security and military sustainability.

Communities that host military facilities are part and parcel of this effort, and in an interesting twist, the Association of Defense Communities just came out with a new report showing how DoD and the civilian world can engage to achieve mutual goals for clean energy.

In other words, DoD was and continues to be a driver of decarbonization, Trump or no Trump.

Stay tuned for Part 2., in which CleanTechnica gets talks to some of the activists who contributed to Paris to Pittsburgh.

Paris to Pittsburgh will air globally on the National Geographic Channel in 172 countries and 43 languages beginning with the broadcast premiere in the US on December 12 at 9pm ET/PT.

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*Developing story.

Photo: by Tina Casey.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3300 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey