Woodstock Film Festival - "Blind Spot" - Oct. 3, 2008
After a nice 2 ½ hour drive from Astoria, Queens, to Woodstock, NY on Friday (I drove most of the way on I-87 this time around, avoiding going over the George Washington Bridge through New Jersey as I did last year), I went to pick up my press badge where I was greeted by Woodstock Film Festival Founder Meira Blaustein and Press Officer Ilene Marder in the press office, where I collected my press badge and tickets. I then went to check in at Twin Gables, the same Bed & Breakfast where A.M. Peters and I stayed last year (this year I was minus A.M. Peters, but plus Erin Scherer who arrived a day earlier).
Finally I was able to make it over to the Bearsville Theater where Adolfo Doring and Amanda Zackem (whom I met a few weeks ago at the festival launch party) were screening their documentary Blind Spot. Adolfo directed and Amanda produced this documentary about the effects of oil consumption on Americans as told by leading scholars and experts in the areas of energy, climate control, the economy, and the environment. It’s highly informative and looked super sharp on the big screen as it was shot in HD. Adolfo and Amanda answered a few questions from the audience, along with Max Fraad Wolff, an economist and one of the interview subjects in the film. Below are highlights from that discussion.
Q: Can you comment on what’s going on in other Western civilized countries?
Doring: I think we’re (the U.S.) the biggest consumers of energy per capita...2 to 1 with Europeans. They are more forward thinking. The reason the film focuses entirely on America we felt at the beginning that moment you put a shot of Saddam Hussein or mention anything that goes outside of the United States immediately people have this mechanism that, ‘Oh, it’s Saddam Hussein’s fault.’ It’s always somebody else’s problem. It’s diffusion of responsibility. We wanted to really contain it within the States.
Wolff: On a conceptual basis, not on the film because I had no influence over picking the subject matter or the nationality. A lot of people discuss energy and oil…as though they’re national. There are these imaginary lines in the economy, state borders. That’s dated and quite honestly wrong. Since you have an integrated global energy market…and affluence…the nation state borders that may be a big deal on our passports are of less and less important to the economic consumption, distribution, benefit and pollution costs of all the energy usage patterns. You can pick any major producer or consumer and you get a bit of a snapshot of a global market, because even if you’re relatively more efficient and I’m relatively less efficient, if there’s a big scramble for oil or my inefficiency pushes up the oil crisis, all your greater efficiency will give you some marginal benefit.
Q: How do you feel the current economic crisis is playing out and how does it relate to the oil situation?
Wolff: I think there’s actually a very great similarity. The denial of interdependence allows everyone to watch a sort of collective collapse and be pretty sure that it’s there own choice on whether or not they want to get into it or not. Then you get into a funny situation where everyone has an analysis that’s predicated on falsely rejecting the interdependence. I couldn’t think of a more dramatically painful example of that than the House votes on Monday where we’re having a huge debate on whether or not we need a bail out, when we basically have a patient, the national economy, that’s flat lining on the table. Whatever the hell you think about this or that bail out, if something doesn’t shock that heart into beating again, the organism dies…We have a crisis because big corporations and banks didn’t give a shit and feel co-dependent with the people they lent to so now they have a crisis because people can’t pay back and they’re insolvent. And then the general public says, ‘hey, who needs banks?’…you do.
Adolfo: What about the role of energy as it is playing out? If we had tons of oil, would the picture be different from what’s happening now?
Wolff: It would certainly be beneficial to whoever has oil in these markets particularly given their trend. Even if they’re down to $93 a barrel off of $147 on July 15, they’re still a lot up from $28 when George Bush was elected. If you do have a price of something that’s an input energy to virtually every production process, if it spikes up, the way that works in a market economy is it redistributes money from everything else. Given we’re a highly energy-dependent general public…the spiking price of oil sucked hundreds of billions dollars a year out of the U.S. economy, moved it to the oil exporters who then loaned it back to us creating the international problems that we have in our credit market.
Q: Like An Inconvenient Truth, do you have some kind of educational campaign behind your film?
Doring: Whatever needs to happen for it to get out there. One of the things I came out of An Inconvenient Truth feeling was that there was some kind of message at the end that was two fold. One was there was these giant things that the government can do…which is pull a switch and make everybody change their carbon emissions…changing your light bulbs, buying a Prias. After all those things, Amanda and I both felt that the main thing we wanted was to create awareness of a problem that is certainly dire but could get a lot worse.
Zackem: We wanted to create a dialogue on a deeper level, not just to use energy efficient light bulbs, but to look at everything on how heavy it is and how deep it really goes, because you have to start somewhere. I think it needs to be spoken about first.