Editor's note: Colleen Smith previously interviewed director Susan Kucera read the interview here-Jeff Bridges Presents Living in the Future's Past- Interview with director Susan Kucera.
The camera pans across a mountain range in the dim light of the sunrise. Jeff Bridges stands amongst prairie grasses with his back to the camera, carefully contemplating.
“This Earth was here before us and will be here long after we are gone…”
Images of great waterfalls, lions, and butterflies are displayed to show the diversity, fragility, and strength of species that have evolved with their natural environment over time.
Just like that, we are hooked. In the next 90 minutes filmmaker Susan Kucera and Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges take us on a deep dive into what it means to be human, frailties and all.
Rather than being an examination on specific anthropological wrongdoings, Living in Future's Past, explores the complexities of the human species’ role in relation to nature by discussing such topics as energy, evolution, ecology, and psychology. This environmental documentary weaves together images of nature as a poignant reminder of the fragility of species. This imagery is coupled with interviews from scientists and experts around the world with the intent to explain what motivates humans and why our behaviors led us to the environmental predicament in which we currently reside.
The film explores, through a series of sobering interviews, why a species capable of manufacturing nature, cannot or will not come together to deal with the consequences. We are taken on a journey through human history, to examine the successful survival of humans due to our ability to utilize natural resources to more easily produce energy. With the discovery of agriculture, humans were able to form civilizations and with the subsequent discovery of fossil fuels energy production maximized, more humans were able to move into urban areas, build expansive cities, and work on technological advancements. We have become dependent on a finite energy source and separated from the true cost of everything we do.
According to physicist, Dr. Leonard Mlodinow “We have used our abilities to build a huge technological society that is very advanced but in our essence we are still animals. And one of the problems is that as animals we have certain emotions and certain tendencies that are counter productive within our great complex society.” Jeff Bridges points out the same emotional state our ancestors achieved by finding food in the wild is often manipulated to indulge in a fossil fuel culture. “In a cultural of amazing technology we are surrounded by ready-made stimuli pushing us to reward ourselves.” Essentially our evolutionary impulses can be easily hijacked and manipulated into a life of consumerism. And as Dr. Mlodinow states, “Today we can just click on a link and have something appear on our doorstep without having an idea of what went in to getting it there. All we know about what got it there was the price. We get more and more detached from the actual cost of creating and transporting what we are using.”
The film further dissects the meaning of identity, issues facing uncomfortable social changes that society would have to undergo if we were to own up to our fossil fuel reliance. According to Dr. Nathan Hagans, our society as it exists now cannot be supported solely by solar energy. We would have to redefine our values and willingly make sacrifices. This is particularly difficult in a society where environmental issues have become political and polarized to the point that owning up to our environmental problems for some people can be impossible, because it is very difficult for humans to absorb new information when it may challenge their identity, according to Dr. Bruce Hood, “We will deliberately reframe things that we’ve done in order to keep the coherence of who we are.”
The film is a reminder of the true cost of energy in the modern world; rather than painting a doomsday scenario the film lifts the curtain between our perceived manufactured reality and the slowly depleting energy costs that feed it. The interviews weave together a picture of humankind, not one where we are defined by our various cultures, but a picture where we are all connected by our shared need for survival. This documentary comes at a time when it is truly needed, though the question remains can we as a species come together and claim responsibility for our actions?
Living in The Future's Past is showing at film festivals around the world, for more information visit Living in Future's Past website.
All images courtesy of LIVING IN THE FUTURE'S PAST.
Cast and Crew
Ken S. Polk
Dr. Piers Sellers
Dr. Timothy Morton
Dr. Rich Pancost
Dr. Ruth Gates
Dr. Renee Lertzman
Dr. Leonard Mlodinow
Dr. Bruce Hood
Dr. Mark Plotkin
Dr. Thomas Metzinger
Dr. Amy Jacobson
Dr. Stephen Lewandowsky
Dr. Nathan Hagens
Dr. Joseph Tainter
Dr. Ugo Bardi
Dr. Ian Robertson
About the Author
Colleen Smith graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a BS in Reclamation, Environment, and Conservation. She has since moved to Hawaii and pursued a career as an environmental scientist with AECOM. Colleen maintains an active role in her company's sustainability committee and participates in beach cleanups and restoration events around Hawaii.