POSTED ON BEHALF OF KATIE KASSOF
No Impact Man: The Documentary, a film by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, follows the experiment of author Colin Beavan and his family as they attempt to live with no environmental impact in New York City for one year. It is a fairly well known documentary (and book) made in 2009 and is available streaming on Netflix and in the AU Library.
This film would be best suited to a high school and younger adult audience because of the open mindedness that often disappears in older age groups. Also, since some of the themes are more mature (no, not in sexual ways…) I feel that the film might be lost on younger audiences. Because of the way I envision using this piece, to launch into a larger project that would span 2-4 weeks, it would fit best in a more formal environment or at least an environment which offers repetitive meetings for a minimum of one month. Because of the diverse themes the film presents, it could fit into many different subjects, but environmental science and psychology are the two that initially come to mind.
The idea for an activity around this film is pretty obvious but has many opportunities for discussion and introspection. First the class will watch the film. It is about 90 minutes so it may be split up over two class periods. This will lead nicely into a discussion of the students’ impressions of Colin and his wife, as well what they thought were the most reasonable things to give up and the things they would not be willing to give up (I’m sure electricity will be top on the list of things no one would be willing to live without). After this discussion the students will each be charged with a week-long project: choose something in their life to live without for one week straight. Document this journey either with a written journal or video journal (depending on resources and/or student learning preference). After their week of abstinence, the students must explore how this impacted their life, the environment and the world and present their findings in a creative class presentation. The larger issues of personal peace and sustainability can be discussed after the students have a chance to ruminate on their experiences.
At first glance No Impact Man seems strictly like an environmental impact documentary, which does fit in with the peace concept of sustainability. It could also qualify for a Pacifist theme. While watching the film, though, another theme emerges: personal peace. Sure you can take away all of the environmental positives from the film: waste less, use less energy, be less materialistic, eat locally, etc., and these are absolutely important. But I think the more poignant take away was the improvement of the family and the personal peace they each achieved. Better yet, this was a surprise to Colin and his wife as well. They too went in with the environment in mind and came out with a much bigger picture experience. Their health improved from eating locally and cutting out take away. They state that they become better parents to their 3-year-old daughter by playing more family games and cutting out television. They spend more time out of doors exploring the city and being social, especially when they give up electricity. They are less invested in material possessions and more focused on the well being of their family. Add to this the obvious environmental discoveries and you have a recipe for a great peace teaching film.
Check out the website http://www.noimpactdoc.com/index_m.php and watch the trailer . Enjoy!