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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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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