Back in 2008, TDG awarded Colin Beavan -- aka the "No Impact Man" -- our light-hearted Heartburn of Green award. The idea was that although we fully supported Beavan and his family's goals of living lighter on the Earth, at the time we were also concerned that his hardcore attitude would turn the mainstream off of going green. There was much discussion of his goals to not use toilet paper, or any other disposable materials, or motorized transportation, including elevators (despite that fact that he and his wife, daughter and dog lived high above the street in a midtown Manhattan apartment tower).
This was during a time that felt like a turning point for going green, and we were worried that purists like Beavan would be seized upon by the enemies of change to kick things back to the status quo, or at least to trumpet the excuse of "green fatigue," and shift the environment again to the background. Luckily, for the most part that hasn't happened, and green continues to grow as a movement and as part of daily life for more and more companies, governments and individuals.
Admittedly, there may have been a bit of professional jealousy on our part, although we rationalized including Beavan in the heartburn feature under the mantra that "all press is good press." Beavan had single-handedly captured the green limelight, appearing on numerous TV and talk shows, and getting hundreds, if not thousands of inches of coverage by a press fascinated with his experiment. This despite the fact that he had a website based on rudimentary technology and features, an obvious lack of knowledge about search engine optimization and social media, and what seemed to me a failure to capitalize on his insta-fame. But finally, after I was beginning to wonder if he had given up on his green pulpit, I hear that Beavan's book is coming out in September. That month should also see the release of the documentary about his family's year-long ordeal.
The trailer is poignant and heartwarming, showing Beavan's successes and frustrations, as well as media appearances. Beavan's earnest, at times naive folk wisdom is balanced by his pretty, pragmatic (and at times feisty) wife, who seems as exasperated by his mission as some observers. Beavan's wife is a great entree for many viewers, since she comes across as a "normal person" who grew up on mainstream American culture, and who adopts a radical green life reluctantly, with difficulty and lapses. The trailer hints at her eventual transformation, however, which may prove to be the most relevant part of the story. At the end she is said to have been cured of her pre-diabetes, among other positive results of the experiment.
It is Beavan's wife too, in addition to reference to commentary from the New York Times, who begs the question: is Beavan's Year of Living Dangerously Green a gimmick? Skeptical, jaded commentators could easily make that case, as they have done for Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone, Isobella Jade's claims of writing her memoir in the Apple store, or A.J. Jacob's Year of Living Biblically.
Beavan's experiment is a gimmick, but like Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me it is pulled off well, with heart and intelligence, and most of all with a genuine curiosity to discover what will really happen. In both cases the men suffered for their art, although in Beavan's case the brunt of the pain may have fallen to his long-suffering wife. At any rate, I am looking forward to the film and to seeing what I can learn from the Beavan family's experiences. After all, anyone who tries to lessen their environmental footprint is to be commended in my book, including those who share their stories.
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