No Impact Man
By John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service
"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).
Colin Beavan and his family give up much for the environment in "No Impact Man."
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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