From the National Geographic Documentary Films, Michael Bonfiglio brings us his directorial project and important documentary “From the Ashes”. This is a documentary that “captures Americans in communities across the country as they wrestle with the legacy of the coal industry and what its future should be under the Trump Administration.”
Do you believe the Trump administration has the capacity to remedy its view on climate change and steer the country towards an eco friendly future?
Michael: I think they have the capacity but I think if we wait on the Trump administration to act responsibly in terms of climate policies, then, we’re crazy. I don’t believe that they will act responsibly. They’ve done less than thus far, to make anyone think that they will. So, of course they have the capacity. I’m not holding my breath and I don’t think anyone else should either.
Would practicing stark contraceptive practices around the globe, to limit our influence on planet earth, be a feasible solution? If possible?
Michael: Sure, of course. We can do a lot better in terms of controlling the amount of carbon emissions. It’s not going to happen overnight but it is scientifically and economically possible to transition to renewable energy all around the globe. The question is whether we have the political will not only from various governments around the world, but from private industry and from individuals. So, it’s possible I believe and scientists believe that we can get out of this mess to a large degree. We just need to commit to doing it. It won’t be easy, but it can be done.
How strongly do you feel about the Paris Climate Change agreement?
Michael: I think Trump’s decision to withdraw The United States from the Paris accord is a terrible decision. It’s extremely embarrassing for our country. But in many ways, the agreement is symbolic of commitment that a whole lot of different organizations can make and continue to make despite Trump’s decision. So, even though he has withdrawn The United States officially, you’re seeing private industry and you’re seeing cities and states all across the country that are saying ‘we’re still going to maintain our commitment to reducing climate emissions.’ There’s only so much that Trump controls and can control and in some ways, not to be too pollyanna about it, but I think that some of the defiance of Trump’s decision may even galvanize people to be more committed. I think that as embarrassing and foolish as it is that he made that decision, we, meaning individual citizens, meaning local and state governments and private industry, still retain the power, to be more responsible. It’s certainly not the end of responsible thinking and acting on climate.
Staying on the current path of coal consumption, how long until the planet is officially deemed “uninhabitable”?
Michael: We’re already seeing the results of climate change. At costal regions, small islands, island nations are really feeling it. In the Middle East, in Sub-Saharan Africa, these places are already feeling the effects of climate change and it’s driving conflict. We’re already worse off because of man made climate change. So, when the planet becomes completely uninhabitable by human beings or when our world is truly unrecognizable due to global warming and climate change. I’m not exactly sure what that date is, I have to speak to a scientist about that. But many scientists are saying that by the end of this century, if we don’t do something to serve our emissions to slow down the taste of climate change, we’re going to be in serious trouble.
If you had only a sentence to get a point across for everyone that doubts the claims of your film, what would you say?
Michael: Coal is a 19th century technology that really has no place in the 21st century. We need to be responsible in our transition to clean renewable energy, and that we don’t leave behind the people in coal communities.
Life imitates art; what is the films overall message?
Michael: I think I kind of just said it. Coal is a 19th century technology that doesn’t have a place in the 21st century. We can do better and in the process, we need to be responsible in taking care of and helping provide alternative employments for people in coal communities that have powered the nation for generations.
How soon do you think humanity will transition from coal to other energy efficient sources?
Michael: It’s already happening. We have seen coal consumption decline significantly. In the past 10 years, coal consumption for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being economic, coal consumption has gone down. At the same time, we’re seeing clean renewable energy, the consumption has gone up and the prices have gone down. So, we’re already in the midst of the transition. The question is how quickly we will embrace it and take advantage of all the positive things that this transition can bring to our economy. Do we become actively involved in that transition and do it responsibly and involve the benefits that this transition can bring?
The film premieres this Sunday.
Bageot Dia contributed reporting.