There is truth. There is passion. There is verisimilitude.
And there is a film that captures it all.
“Public understanding of energy is very low. Energy education is vital.”
That’s past AAPG president and newly named AAPG Honorary member Scott Tinker, who helped create and narrates the film “Switch,” a non-partisan, non-advocacy documentary about the world’s energy needs, on why he thought the project was necessary.
The documentary, as you’d imagine, talks about where the world is now in terms of energy needs, but its focus, mostly, is on the transition – how, in fact, we make the switch to future energy sources … once we agree on what those should be.
The film, directed by Harry Lynch, is part of the reason the Switch Energy Project was honored at last year’s AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston with an AAPG Geosciences in the Media Award.
It’s also a reason young people around the world have eagerly embraced its message – its been shown to AAPG student chapters on virtually every continent – and its focused approach.
This project, intentionally, is not so much a call to action as it is a call to understanding.
Lights On, Heat Down
As importantly, it dials back the – you should pardon the expression – heat on an already overheated issue.
As Tinker says in the film, “The only way to find a solution is to go out and get it.”
Despite the awards he and Lynch have received, Tinker mostly does not want the focus to be anywhere other than the message. When pressed, he’ll talk about his involvement and tell you he had to relearn everything he knew about energy before he could see what needed to come next.
And that’s a lot of relearning.
“I have been studying and speaking about energy for decades.”
Even after 600 international talks, it wasn’t enough.
“It still did not allow me to reach a broad, non-energy audience,” Tinker said.
Which is where and why the collaboration for “Switch” started.
“Harry Lynch is a documentary filmmaker interested in energy,” he said. “We met and agreed we would set off on a grand adventure with a vision to raise the level of energy education. The Switch Energy Project comprises the film ‘Switch.’”
(Incidentally, teachers, professors and school libraries can receive a free Education Edition DVD of the film).
But it’s not just the documentary. The project also includes the video-based website, Facebook, newsletters and other social media, as well as the soon to be released Switch Energy Lab, a series of 28-short format videos, which will show Tinker in the lab doing energy experiments, expressly designed for middle and high school students with curriculum for teachers.
“I think,” Tinker said, “it is part of a growing conversation on energy and we are happy to be a part of it.”
Specifically, the film – which has won or been invited to 17 international festivals – does not shill for one side or another, which is noteworthy. Tinker is an energy guy. He’s the director of the Bureau of Economic Geology where he leads 200 scientists and staff, he’s a professor at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geology, and he is the state geologist of Texas.
He knows there is not just one energy answer out there.
In the film, he goes looking for it … for them.
Everyone’s a Critic …
He is heartened by what he found, heartened by the reaction to it.
“The project is being received very well,” he said. “Global screenings of ‘Switch’ continue. More than three million people have seen it. The Web-based materials are heavily accessed and used. Feedback has been extremely positive and evidence of impact is apparent on many fronts.”
The Boston Globe called it “affable”; Variety said it “sidesteps the usual eco-docu strategy … and takes a far less hysterical route.”
That lack of hysteria is one of the reasons it’s receiving the Geosciences in Media Award: Energy companies, environmental groups, government agencies, leading universities, general audiences and most reviewers are not retreating to their corners.
But since it’s about energy and the future and how we get there, not everyone is happy with it, a fact admitted on the film’s own website.
“However, because it does not overtly advocate for or condemn any resource, it has also angered some who do, including anti-nuclear protesters, renewable-only promoters and fossil fuel lobbyists,” it reads.
A critic for the Los Angeles Times agreed, who wrote, “In trying to be agenda-free – you’d be hard-pressed to say which energy source Tinker favors – the film ends up lacking any real passion, which is the most fundamental fuel that drives the best issue-based documentaries.”
The explanation for that: Tinker and Lynch invited experts, not politicians, to participate. Carbon sequestration specialists are rarely volatile as United States senators.
This was always the point.
“What will it take,” Tinker asks, “to go from the energy that built our world to the energy that will shape our future?”
The questions are right there. The answers are, too – right until they aren’t.
As he says in the film, “Oil is running out … or is it? Coal can be cleaned … or can it? Renewables will power the future … or can they?”