Short Cuts: There’s something to learn from ‘No Impact Man’“Short Cuts” are expedient, pretension-free movie reviews. This installment tackles Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s documentary “No Impact Man,” which follows Colin Beavan and his family as they try to go a full year in New York City without leaving an impact on our planet.
“No Impact Man”
WHAT IT IS: A documentary by Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein about Colin Beavan and his family as they try to go a full year in New York City without having an environmental impact on our planet. Many of the efforts proposed by Beavan, who wrote a book about his family’s experiences, were practical enough — like buying locally produced food and refusing to use motor vehicles — but some of the measures proved to be a little too drastic for the public. Beavan, whose name quickly became associated with the “No Impact Man” moniker, become something of a media sensation during his yearlong experiment when the masses learned how he made his family go without such modern-day essentials as toilet paper.
WHAT ONE JERK THINKS ABOUT IT: Simply a fascinating film. Even if you think Beavan is just a not-too-sly self-promoter — a criticism of his No Impact Year experiment which repeatedly rears its ugly, misguided head throughout Gabbert and Schein’s documentary — his family’s “green odyssey” raises a bunch of important questions that we should all be talking about on a much more frequent basis: For instance, how have we allowed excess consumerism to run rampant in our country? Why is there such a priority placed on the new when what you already have in your possession is perfectly workable? Or, on a rudimentary level, why do many of the products we actually need contain so much wasteful packaging? Brand-name cereal packages are a great example of this.
I think the main reason “No Impact Man” works is that Beavan never preaches. He never says everyone should go without electricity for a year and only buy necessary products; instead, he simply asks, “What would you be willing to sacrifice in your life to contribute to the greater good?”
Which brings me to the main thing I took away from this film: America makes me sad. Whilst poring over the online media coverage of his No Impact Man efforts, Beavan came across an anonymous comment on a story about how one reader wanted to annihilate the Beavans with an Uzi while screaming, “Is that enough ‘Impact’ for you?” I understand not everyone gives a rat’s ass about Mother Nature, but freedom of speech only goes so far. When you proudly boast about aspirations to cut down an entire family — one member of which is an innocent little girl — you’ve crossed a line. No, rather, you’ve crossed the line; the one that separates humans from animals.
Beavan’s aim was true from the start: to see what he could personally do to eliminate everything unnecessary in his life. Sure, he wrote a book about the year he spent trying out waste-reducing ways, but never once in “No Impact Man” did he or his family come across as holier than thou. Beavan is simply a caring individual, and one wishes his naysayers could possess at least a fraction of his goodwill.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO ABOUT IT: Watch it with your loved ones and set aside some discussion time to ascertain what you’d be willing to do in your household to make less of an impact. (If you care, that is.) And, if you like what you see, pick up Beavan’s book on his family’s experiences, “No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.”
*A solar panel was affixed to the family’s apartment complex’s roof so Beavan could write the book about his family’s experiences — just a little bending of the rules, though completely understandable.
Find out more information about this documentary, which was released via Adam “MCA” Yauch’s earth-conscious Oscilloscope Laboratories film company, and the Beavan family at www.noimpactdoc.com.
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