Arts Listings

Film Review:2012: Time for Change

by Gar Smith
Thursday April 08, 2010 - 09:02:00 PM

Last summer, the blockbuster disaster flick, 2012 asked the question: “How would the governments of our planet prepare 6 billion people for the end of the Earth?” Hollywood’s answer? “They Wouldn’t.” 

2012: Time for Change, is an eco-sequel that challenges this recipe for disaster. Time for Change sees the Mayan Calendar’s prediction of imminent doom as an opportunity for transformation, not trauma.  

The film’s “agent evocateur,” New Age journalist Daniel Pinchbeck, guides viewers through his personal encounters with psychedelics (from ingesting iboga in Gabon to downing ayahuasca in Brazil) and spends the better part of the film criss-crossing the globe to interview a host of 2010 positivists — shamans, scientists, inventors, yogis, permaculturists, Native Americans and Berkeley’s own Richard Register. Celebrities Sting, David Lynch and Ellen Page also chime in with Sting praising ayahuasca and yoga, Page celebrating the earthly joys of shoveling goat-shit, and Lynch (predictably) talking up the benefits of Transendental Meditation. (Too bad the filmmakers weren’t able to fit in an interview with John Cusack.) 

The film’s first order of business is dealing with the Mayan and Hopi myths that echo the Old Testament stories of human wickedness swept away by a holy flood. Both the Hopi and Mayan lore forwarned that 2012 would be a date of high danger. Scientist Michio Kaku observes that 2012 could see a Solar Maximum that could dissolve the electronic glue that holds modern society together. A radical economist predicts 2012 will see the collapse of the world economy, triggering food riots, a US tax rebellion and civil war. 

In the near-term, of course, we face hunger, war, and climate change. Canadian Maud Barlow also warns that “water is the next oil” — a precious resource that already is being claimed by corporations and Oilman T. Boone Pickens admits to buying up water rights in Texas and explains: “Do you charge for air? Well, of course not. They say you shouldn’t sell water. Well, OK. You just watch what happens.”  

The belief that Jesus will return or that benign aliens in UFOs will save are cop-outs, the filmmakers argue. There is no “personal sovereignty” when we forfeit our sense of responsibility for our own time and our own actions. Terence McKenna, author of Mind and Time, Spirit and Matter, puts it squarely: “Western civilization, at this time, is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet.” But, as Sting points out, “apocalypse” doesn’t mean disaster or oblivion; it means “uncovering.” And Time for Change reminds us that one of the things we need to uncover is the simple lesson: We are a part of nature; not apart from nature. 

A yoga instructor argues that the Western body is literally “uptight” — constrained in a “linear monoculture” of posture. (It’s time to get your curve on.) Sting reflects on finding comfort in difficulty yoga poses.: “That’s when we make progress. When we put ourselves out of the comfort zone.” 

2012 revisits the genius of Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, the “daVinci of the 20th Century,” who showed the practical opportunities of a world designed to do “more with less.” Thinking outside the box produced alternatives like the geodesic dome and Fuller’s speedy, gymnastically maneuverable Dymaxion car (30 mpg; 120 mph). The clip of Bucky’s car in motion has to be seen to be believed.  

Richard Register, founder of EcoCity Builders, decries the lack of attention to cities, “the biggest thing that human beings create.” Capitalism’s definition of health: “grow, grow, grow, grow!” Possible to save 80-90% of US energy by redesigning our cities along more compact European models. Rooftop gardens in New York could grow 80% of the Big Apple’s produce. Register laments that his visionary plan for an Berkeley EcoCity was rejected “because it would mean major changes in land-use patterns.” Interviewed atop the Gaia Building., Register concludes: “It’s up to people, deep in their hearts, to say: ‘I want to build a different world and I’m willing to face some serious change.’ “ 

Innovator John Todd explains how he uses plants to clean sewage without electricity or chemicals: “When you assemble17 kingdoms of life, you’ve actually created an eco-machine that’s intelligent. It’s got behind it, hundreds of millions of years of practice.“ And Paul Stamets expounds on how mushrooms can help save the planet by breaking down oil, chemicals and pollutants to clean and restore habitat in as quickly as three months. Mycellium has a network like the Internet. 

Pinchbeck visits the lab of inventor Ryan Wartena who uses LA tap water to generate the electricity that powers his scooter and marvels at how the Internet has terminally torpedoed the corporate suppression of alternative technologies. Today an inventor can post a demonstration of a :free-energy” device on YouTube and the next day 30 million people can start building their own version. These “open source” solutions to survival could replace hierarchical, corporate systems that now dominate our lives.  

Social transformation is not easily accomplished because is it difficult to grasp emotionally and intellectually. In addition, as one interviewee puts it: “If you can’t monetize it, it drops out of capitalist monetization.” An economist advises Pinchbeck that we can’t solve environmental or social problems within the current economic system based, as it is, on bank debt and endless borrowing. “It’s a monoculture and monocultures are not very reliable, stable systems. One unexpected thing and the whole system falls apart.” 

Patriarchal societies are inevitably identified with monocultures of “centralizing currencies” and interest rates that provide a way of “extracting resources to the top.” What’s needed is a “diversity of financial tools” that reward actions that benefit health or the environment. One remarkable example is the Japanese fiyakipo — a time-based credit currency that recognizes the value of voluntary community service and rewards cooperation instead of competition.  

Just as there was an Agricultural Revolution, an Industrial Age and an Information Age, Pinchbeck predicts the arrival of a transformative Age of Wisdom. In sympathy with this hope, several interviewees praise the Sixties as the first phase of an “initiatory process” for the modern psyche: the first step in breaking away from egocentric, profit-driven materialism. What’s now needed is a profound shift in how we conducting ourselves on this planet — replacing the rituals of an “unsustainable suicide culture” with lives that respect the needs of others.  


2012: Time for Change opens April 9 for a three-day Special Advance Screening at the Landmark Lumiere Theatre in San Francisco. 

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