Shattered Sky

from Wildlife Promise

Shattered Sky is a new documentary that uses the true story of the ozone crisis to inspire action addressing climate and energy issues. The National Wildlife Federation is the education partner for the film, working with the filmmakers to create educational and outreach campaigns for youth across our nation’s campuses.

Looking for an environmental documentary to raise awareness of environmental issues and kick off your campaign this fall? May I suggest Shattered Sky?

You might be thinking, “oh no, another environmental documentary…let me get the tissues and the punching bag…” but, based on my extensive experience watching environmental documentaries (and feeling subsequently angry and/or depressed by their content and our society) let me reassure you that Shattered Sky is different, offering a positive story of teamwork and success. A fairy-tale ending. But every silver lining comes with a cloud, and the full truth is that Shattered Sky tells two stories, one from once-upon-a-time, and one from the sooty, polluted pages of today.

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Shattered Sky is an account of the worldwide collaboration among nations (ALL the nations, to be exact) to address the issue of the hole in the ozone layer in the late 1980s. The leader of the pack was the United States of America. The President at the time? Ronald Reagan.

You may or may not be familiar with the story of the Montreal Protocol–some really cold scientists in Antarctica ran some tests in the ’80s and figured out that the ozone layer (which protects us from harsh UV rays) was getting thinner (so the scientists were also really sunburned…), probably as a result of people using hair spray in aerosol cans, so in 1987 a bunch of dudes went to Montreal and ultimately signed a piece of paper agreeing to use hair gel instead of spray. Okay, okay so actually it’s a little more serious and complicated than that. Real quick:

  • 1970s:  Scientists Rowland and Molina begin studying the effects of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere.
  • 1980s:  Studies by several agencies across the planet show significant depletions in the ozone layer, specifically over Antarctica
  • 1986:  DuPont (one of the top manufacturers of CFCs) testifies in front of Congress that this is really not a big deal
  • September 1987:  Montreal Protocol is signed to phase out the use of CFCs.  By September 2009, the Montreal Protocol is universally ratified

If that chain of events reminds you of, say, today’s big polluters denying climate science, you’re not the only one to make that connection. Shattered Sky filmmakers Steve Dorst and Dan Evans intersperse the story of international efforts addressing CFCs with the modern mayhem surrounding worldwide legislation on, for instance, CO2 emissions. The parallel is uncanny, but at the same time, inspiring. We need a reminder that we have all worked together before, that American politicians have taken a stand on behalf of the planet, and with actual results to show for it. Did you know, for example, that members of Congress received more letters about CFCs than any other topic except for the Vietnam war? Consumers even initiated boycotts on aerosol products.

Call to Action for Campuses

While we may need more than just a few screenings to revitalize efforts for climate legislation, Shattered Sky can be used as a call to action for college and university presidents to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Committment (ACUPCC).  And if your president has already signed, Shattered Sky could offer the motivation to increase the scale or scope of campus projects.

In 2011, nearly 20 million students were enrolled in institutions of higher education. That’s almost equal to the number of people in all of New York state, or all of Florida. Or the sixteen least-populated states  combined.  Imagine if all the electricity they used were powered by wind? Or if all the food waste in their dining halls were composted, instead of going to landfills? These goals are achievable, and universities can be leaders in the movement against climate change. In fact, they already are.

Ozone-protecting legislation was achieved by bipartisan perseverance–hard work on both sides of the aisle. Similarly, Shattered Sky appeals to a broad spectrum, from international affairs to political science majors, from business students to the crunchiest-granola environmental studies major, as it well should. Addressing climate change through policy can’t be left to one group in particular. It will only be through a confluence of our efforts that we make real and measurable progress toward a sustainable future.

The Shattered Sky facebook page is third on the list of documentary films with the most “likes.” Help bring it to number one

You can also help get Shattered Sky off the ground by contributing to their Kickstarter campaign before Friday, September 21.

Tweeting about Shattered Sky? Use the hashtag #ozone2climate to spread the word.

Shattered Sky will air on PBS this September, in conjunction with the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. Check your local listings!

Keep in touch with Campus Ecology via facebook or send us an email (campus@nwf.org) for information on hosting a screening on your campus.