Disruption: A Film About the People’s Climate March

The film Disruption, produced and directed by Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, executive producer, Jon Warnow is a prelude to the People’s Climate March, which, according to 350.org, will be the “largest climate march in history,” scheduled for September 21st at Central Park West/NYC between 59th and 86th streets, beginning at 11:30 am.

The People’s Climate March will be conducted prior to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s UN Summit on the Climate Crisis scheduled for September 23rd.

The world will be watching.

As a byword for the film, Frederick Douglas is quoted as saying:

Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.

As such, the film’s charge is that people must take to the streets to demand new, transcendent governmental policies on climate change. Otherwise, sans an all-powerful assertion of “demands by the general public,” there will be no change. After all, it’s all about politics, no noise by the people, no noise from the Congress.

The film is introduced with intriguing 1968 footage of Apollo 8 in lunar orbit, which was transmitted live via television (the most watched TV program ever), including the astronauts momentously sharing their impressive view: “This is Apollo 8 coming to you live from the moon,” by astronaut Frank Borman. “The vast loneliness of the moon is awe-inspiring. It makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space,” by astronaut James Lovell.

As an image of Earth can be seen rising on the moon’s horizon, it cues the astronauts to remark: “From the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck and God bless all of you. All of you on the good Earth.”

Whereupon the film fades to black with the following words appearing on screen:

We no longer live on that Earth.

Thereafter, and interspersed throughout, the film describes the significance of organized activism. The film’s message is that major changes in governmental policy do happen when, and if, people leave the comfort of their couches and hit the streets.

For example, the Nuclear Disarmament Movement in NYC in 1982 remains, to this day, the largest movement in the history of the country, which some credit as helping to convince President Reagan to meet with Gorbachev in Reykjavik.

When the UN announced its first special session on nuclear disarmament, the Nuclear Disarmament Movement organized by way of knocking on doors, personal gatherings, telephones and mail; there was no Internet. The subsequent street demonstrations were compelling worldwide news.

Along those lines, Disruption is laced with settings of activists working behind the scenes in preparation for the People’s Climate March. Reflectively, it espouses the merit behind old-fashioned direct person-to-person activism.

As for one example of activism’s effectiveness when people hit the streets, according to Denis Hayes (a film interviewee), founder of Earth Day Network, the nationwide demonstrations for Earth Day, April 22, 1970, compelled Nixon, clearly an anti-environmental president, to sign the Clean Air Act. Back then, twenty million Americans hit the streets.

And that’s not all.  Within three years the U.S Congress passed the Clean Water Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Environmental Education Act, and the Superfund.

The evidence is compelling that people in the streets influence politics, whereas, in today’s world, touching electronic icons is way, way too easy as well as too casual, too noncommittal. Who really sees it, hears it, or feels it? Indeed, the “touch” is ephemeral, whereas, people in the streets palpably move politics, a la Dr. Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Act.

Naomi Klein (a film interviewee) says:

It’s not that we need to save the earth. We need to save the systems that make the earth compatible with human existence and existence of other life forms.

As explained in the film, scientists have known for over 150 years that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Thereon, the film offers a brief history about scientists who opened the window to the effects of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but it wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists bothered to seriously analyze GHGs in the atmosphere, leading to the construct of the Keeling Curve, which demonstrates CO2 rising, rising, rising, ever since the industrial revolution.

James Hansen (a film interviewee), frmr director, NASA (GISS) was first in 1988 to open up the public’s eyes to climate change, stating before a Congressional committee: “A greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.” Hansen’s chilling message was front-page news at the New York Times, and a bill was introduced in Congress, The National Energy Policy Act, to begin to phase out the use of fossil fuels. Imagine that!

Subsequently, that promising momentum faded within the shackles and clutches of a domineering fossil fuel leviathan. And, that’s where the issue stands to this day.

According to the film, all of the people of the world bear the real costs of environmental degradation whilst fossil fuel companies freely access nature’s bounty. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) (a film interviewee) explains:

Behind the environmental problems that carbon pollution causes… a very small group of very powerful special interests have exerted very rough control over the political establishment.

The film’s core message is that powerful forces, like the fossil fuel industry, can only be overcome with an equally powerful force, a colossal demonstration involving prodigious numbers of people, demanding change. In essence, this is similar to a call to arms, a crusade against humanity’s misbegotten abuse of its own home planet and a plea for a better way by sourcing energy from nature’s gifts of wind, sun, and water, whilst symbolically burying an indigenous hatchet into the grounds of the oil fields.

The film’s title, “Disruption,” in and of itself, portrays multiple messages: (1) disruption of the sourcing of energy from fossil fuels by converting to renewables, (2) the event itself, the People’s Climate March, is a public display that disrupts the normal flow of daily affairs, hence, invoking a powerful public sentiment, (3) the word “disruption” bespeaks ecological damage from human-caused CO2 emissions, and (4) maybe even going so far as to disrupt (wake up) a very, very, very, um- very slothful general public.

Again, and again, Disruption focuses on the necessity and the significance of people hitting the streets, a longing for the activism of the 1960s and 1970s, when fearless activists challenged the powerful, a time when street demonstrations moved politics.

In that regard, the myriad of complexities that hinder people from activism are discussed by Dr. Heidi Cullen (a film interviewee), Chief Scientist, Climate Central:

There is something called a ‘single action bias’. We have a tendency… to fix with one thing, like a silver bullet solution. [However], when we look at climate change, we become overwhelmed by it. There are so many different ways….

Indeed, the public is humbled by the complexities and intricacies of climate change. And, the science is confusing as there are several disciplines behind the many aspects of climate change such as ocean acidification, loss of coral reefs, meltdown of glaciers, loss of Arctic ice mass, impending methane outbreak, fears of “tipping points” in parts of Antarctica, extreme weather patterns unlike any other modern human experience, epic floods (Eastern Europe’s 500-yr. flood, 2013), epic droughts (Syria’s worst drought 2006-11 in the history of Fertile Crescent), flash floods (worst in 50 yrs. in Canada, 2013), cascading mountainsides (glacial lake outburst flood, Nepal, 2012), ferocious tornados (1.3 mile wide tornado-Oklahoma, 2013), overwhelming hurricanes (Sandy clobbers NYC, 2012), as a warming Arctic alters the jet streams, in turn, upsetting weather patterns all across the Northern Hemisphere and a planet that, whilst withstanding it all, changes right before our very eyes. It’s not the same as when we were kids.

And, it’s not necessarily change in, and of, itself that is so alarming because nature is always changing. But, it’s the speed, the acceleration, a virtual breakneck blue streak of changing of nature within generations rather than within hundreds of thousands or millions of years: e.g., according to the Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, Arctic sea ice volume (mass); i.e., monthly average ice volume, was 16.9 thousand cubic kilometers in 1950 but by 2014 it dropped to 8.2 thousand cubic kilometers or down 50%. That’s falling off a cliff within one lifetime. Geologically speaking, that’s a blue streak.

And, the Alps, on average, have lost glacial mass equivalent to a three-story building in one decade… in only 10 years!  ((European Topic Centre on Air Pollution and Climate Change Mitigation.))

Who said global warming is slowing down?

George Marshall (a film interviewee), author of Don’t Even Think About It: Why our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change provides insight that is perhaps most supportive of why people should get up off their couches and join the People’s Climate March:

Climate change is strangely, uniquely problematic because not only are we all bystanders, we’re also perpetrators….

As such, the issue of climate change is personalized, brought into focus on an individual-by-individual-by-individual basis, touching each and every person in America and the world because for each one of us “…we’re also perpetrators.”

The People’s Climate March intends to do something about it.


Some scientists believe climate change is the cause of unprecedented melting of the North Pole, and that effects these very uncertain weather patterns. I think we should listen to those scientists and experts.

— His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: rlhunziker@gmail.com. Read other articles by Robert.