May 14, 2012 | By Chris Long
On a rainy day in March in Madison, filmmaker Shalini Kantayya sat down with us to discuss her views on the environmental movement, the power of storytelling and strategies for moving forward.
The Third Wave
Actually, Kantayya does not consider herself an environmentalist, but an eco-activist. She feels that this term is more inclusive, and it doesn't separate the planet from the people.
But the difference is more than one of semantics because it belies a shift that is underway in the environmental movement, toward what's being called the Third Wave of Environmentalism.
This shift is an emphasis on solutions instead of reactive regulations. From Kantayya's point of view it has the capacity for energizing the mainstream by reframing environmental issues into issues of social justice, economics, racism and sexism. And this is exactly where her work finds meaning within the movement.
The Role of Storytelling and Sci-Fi
Storytelling is a leading strategy in this new form of environmentalism. It is a means by which to reframe environmental issues into common issues that the broad public can relate to.
But what gives storytelling its power? And what role does science fiction play in storytelling?
According to Kantayya it is the emotional connection elicited in stories that inspires people to action. This emotional connection can be combined by the visionary powers of science fiction for social change.
Or, recalling our interview with Raghu Murtuggude, storytelling communicates to the emotional elephant that is the motivating force for the rational rider.
Activism and Policy
Activism played a central role in getting environmental regulations passed in the Sixties. We asked Kantayya what she thinks about the role of activism in this new alignment of the environmental movement. Is activism still relevant? What about regulation and policy-making?
Removing the Roadblocks
Finally, one of the solutions being proposed by the new movement is incentivizing and investment in clean energy systems. This, combined with training for unemployed workers, holds promise to improve the economy while reducing our dependence on carbon dioxide-emitting energy systems.
Kantayya's newest film, "Solarize This," (to be released in 2013) chronicles the travails of workers in this new economy. We asked her what needs to happen to get the clean energy economy moving.
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