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America’s Divorce From the Outdoors

 

“There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings.”     Rachel Carson’s SILENT SPRING, chapter one, titled “A Fable for Tomorrow”

 

 

Many of us Americans share a vision of the rural past, which goes something like the fable at the beginning of Carson’s book…

Once upon a time, we lived in close proximity to the outdoors, to what biologist E.O. Wilson and many others refer to as nature or –alternatively- the Creation. Food was grown in nearby fields, hunted in nearby woods, or fished from nearby waters. bte-landscape-grassChildren played outdoors. A rich bounty of birds, mammals, plants, fish, and insects invited curious minds to observe, organize, and understand what life is. The open land and waterscapes inspired dreams of what all our own lives -and those of all our descendents- could be.

Today, many Americans share unease about our relationship to Creation. Our children, known as “digital natives” – and us – seem to spend less time outside and more time with indoor virtual amusements. We look about and within our own day-to-day activities and feel distress about the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the accelerating pace required just to get by. We’re disturbed by the degraded bounty of life on earth, a result of imbalances that we’ve introduced. Some of our communities have been disproportionately degraded to the point of alarming insecurity and intolerable injustice.
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BEHOLD THE EARTH provides an original opportunity to re-examine and expand the community of U.S. environmentalists, charting steps into the future that builds on Rachel Carson’s discussion of destructive trace toxicity in the 20th century, with the addition of a destructive climate in the 21st century. Carson inspired a wide range of rising young scientists of that time, people like E.O. Wilson and Cal DeWitt and Theo Colborn, to better understand how the natural world works, so as to better track human impacts within it.

Many of these scientists were also raised as evangelicals, in the network of America’s largest and arguably most influential faith communities of the last 75 years. Concurrent to their scientific work, they examined life on earth in terms of the living Creation and biblical scripture. Cal DeWitt helped launch a movement called “Creation Care,” a moral imperative that builds on theology deeply seated within the last 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition.

At the beginning of the 21st century, a new generation of scientists and evangelicals is coming-of-age, people like Katherine Hayhoe and Ben Lowe and Corina Newsome. They are standing on the shoulders of Cal DeWitt and others inspired by Rachel Carson. Can these emerging leaders and the next wave of Creation Care conservationists reduce the human degradations of the living planet, wrought by trace toxins and a destructively warming climate? Along the way, can they revive the reach and relevance of both the environmentalist and the evangelical movements in America?

Film Director and Conservationist David Conover boldly began this highly original film 12 years ago, as an inquiry into America’s divorce from the outdoors, before-and-after the arrival of those known as the digital natives. He is neither scientist nor evangelical. He draws upon some of the same talented field staff behind the spectacular natural sequences in his series Sunrise Earth and Big Picture Earth. Four time Grammy-award winning musician Dirk Powell leads the arrangements of traditional American tunes and hymns, with Rhiannon Giddens and Tim Eriksen.

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