Originally published on New Era News by Shad Murib.
You can watch 180° South on Netflix’s Watch Instantly service and is playing at the Boulder Theater on Thursday, July 15h at 8:00PM.
Yeah, I know. I’m (fashionably) late to the party on this one. 180° South was released earlier this year and was reviewed by every environmental magazine, website and publication under the sun. Revered as a triumph of the human spirit, a lesson in simplyifying your life and the importance of getting away — the film is more than a series of bros surfing to a soundtrack made up of Jack Johnson and Mason Jennings tunes.
The film follows Jeff Johnson, writer and general outdoorsman, on his journey to climb Cocovado, a mountain in Chile. He brings his bros, Timmy O’Neil and Keith Malloy, along for the ride to emulate a trip taken by the founder of North Face (Doug Tompkins) and the founder of Patagonia (Yvon Chouinard) to Chile in 1968.
The importance of the film isn’t necessarily the surfing or the climb or the massive beards these dudes all grow, but the undercurrent of the film is fed by the idea that if we are to enjoy our consumerist lifestyles and the outdoors at the same time, we must be willing to take drastic steps to protect our resources and environment. A simple idea, for sure, but one presented from the frame of a culture in denial.
Part of the film, and maybe my favorite scenes, are the ones where Jeff and his ragtag crew’s boat wrecks and they have to motor to Easter Island. There, they learn about the terrible history of the tribes building statues and destroying their forests in the process of moving them to the coast. Eventually, their resources were so depleted that their society failed.
The film focuses on the fact that the world, not just America or Europe, is headed on a similar path — unless we take measures to step back and reassess our values and use of resources.
A major focus of the film is, “¡SIN REPRESAS!” — a movement in Chile to halt the building of five dams that will not only devastate the environment but ruin many people who depend on the river for their livelihoods. The dams will destroy a critical aspect of the country’s history, dining traditions, fisheries and farms in the name of harvesting energy for the growing metropolises in South America.
Right now, you must be thinking, “Well, yeah. We get it. Climate change, Al Gore, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, canvas bags rather than plastic bags.” And, that is fair. However, my plea to pursue more efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly solutions to our growing energy needs is not born of some hippie ideal of loving the earth, listening to The Dead and wanting to destroy the military. I am a self-professed lover of cities and urban areas. There is no greater cross-section of cultures than the urban landscapes we have built. However, my love for cities does not transcend the importance of maintaining our free and open landscapes.
Humans are smarter than wrecking the outdoors. We can make and, often, already have the solutions. We are not predisposed to the use of oil, dams and coal. At one time they served us well, but we are at a critical crossroads.
I’m not saying everyone should emulate Jeff, quit their job, sail to Chile for six months and climb a mountain. That is an extreme. And, a luxury which was most likely financed by Woodshed Films, the production company that released the film. Not all of us can do that. Nor can we rely strictly on the government to outline a new green economy and world. We have to rely on ourselves and condition ourselves, much in the same way preventative care is used to prevent sickness in old age.
As environmentally-friendly as we can (pretend) to be, there is still one glaring aspect of truly understanding our impact that many are missing out on. And, that is experiencing nature and the world outside the confines of a resort, your car or an airplane.
Rather than driving your car (which is most likely stocked with a battery powered grill, a lantern, processed foods, some booze, your computer, your phone and an iPod) out to a camping site so small you can barely fit your tent on it because you don’t want to disturb the other campers next to you — go a little further.
Take your car past those sites, which are basically the same as sleeping in your backyard and park off the side of the road. Toss your backpack on and walk for an hour, leaving markers to find your way back. Set up your tent, build a fire (safely!), cook something and take it all in. For those that have done this, even just once, I’m sure you’ll agree that the experience is more than enough motivation to not only install CFLs and unplug the mouths of your outlets when not in use, but to recognize a world beyond the boundaries of your jobs and homes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this since watching 180° South the first time. And, the second time. And, the third time. Sure, it’s a simple little film about bearded bros surfing. But, it’s a reminder that simplifying our lives and conserving our environments can be as simple as just doing it.