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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

No Impact Man

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Colin Beavan and his family give up much for the environment in "No Impact Man."
"Reduce, reuse, recycle." That's the green-minded mantra of author Colin Beavan, the central figure in the thought-provoking documentary "No Impact Man" (Oscilloscope).

Filmmakers Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein chart a bold yearlong experiment by the New York City resident and his journalist wife, Michelle Conlin, during which they gradually give up every aspect of their lifestyle that might cause a negative environmental effect.

This formidable list of sacrifices eventually includes all motorized transport, even the elevator to their ninth floor apartment, all food not grown within 250 miles, disposable diapers for their toddler daughter, air conditioning, heating and electric lights.

These deprivations prove especially challenging for Conlin, who acknowledges in an early scene her addiction both to shopping and to reality television. With the purchase of new clothes or shoes "verboten" and the family's large-screen TV carted off to storage, Conlin -- who also has had to give up the coffee-guzzling that gets her through her hectic days at the offices of Business Week magazine -- begins to show the strain.

Beavan, by contrast, cheerily embarks on visits to an upstate dairy farm and a Gotham community garden tended by an aging hippie whose radical ideas have not mellowed with time. He also plans a back-to-the-land family vacation at another farm, despite the reservations of the nature-shunning Conlin.

While the couple's undertaking obviously carries conscientiousness to an extreme unlikely to be imitated by many, the pioneering experience does have its potentially inspiring rewards. Thanks to increased exercise and a better diet, Conlin's health improves and her prediabetic condition is cured. The absence of electronic entertainment leads to intensified social interaction with friends and more time to concentrate on family life.

For Conlin, that includes trying to convince Beavan that they should have another child, a discussion that reveals that, although they display a sound sense of mutual commitment, both share widespread but misguided reproductive values, as witness their explicitly referenced use of artificial birth control.

Catholic viewers committed to the moral teaching of the magisterium will hardly miss the irony involved here, since the millions of condoms sold worldwide every year—not to mention the packaging used with other contraceptive products—have environmental consequences far different from those which would result from an increased reliance on responsibly practiced natural, and nature-friendly, family planning.

The film contains some rough and crude language, a half-dozen crass terms and birth control references. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-III— adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

****
Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.


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