I finally got around to watching the Patagonia film "180 degrees south" last night. I'd describe it as "Jack Kerouac meets Edward Abbey far south of the border." The film documents an unstructured trip to southern Chile, is complete with stark moonscapes of the open ocean, and is set to a backdrop of environmental collapse and activism.
There were several themes I took from this film, and the first theme is that we CAN change. The amount of time the film dedicated to Doug and Kristine Tompkin's creation of the Corcovado National Park in Chile underscored this point. The message of "change" was eloquently packaged and delivered at one point in the film by Doug (paraphrasing) "if you come to the edge of a cliff, progress isn't walking forward... it's turning 180 degrees around and then walking forward." With the world issues we see day in and day out, that line made the film for me.
Jeff Johnson, the surfer/climber storyteller of the film, did a wonderful job setting up moments like Doug's pithy nugget. Jeff accomplished this while recounting his adventures and misadventures within the story of the film. In this sense he mirrored the Patagonia brand well. 180 degrees south isn't a surf film, it's a thinking man's road trip complete with enough breathing room to take in bigger picture issues. The film is visually stunning but makes it crystal clear that what you're seeing on screen cannot compare to the real thing. Locations like Patagonia look great on film but when you see them in real life they are life changing.
The second theme I took with me came from Kristine Tompkins. She spoke about the relationship between love and action. Living where she does and experiencing the threats to Patagonia, it's easy to feel why this issue is so important to her. Yet I think this theme is central to all of us. This is THE central theme behind Surfrider Foundation. It's one thing to live in a coastal region, it's another thing to really LIVE in that coastal region (getting water time in the ocean, hiking the ecosystems and surrounding areas, etc). These are the things that make us love the areas we live in. But this is not enough. To be frank, taking without giving back is a fairly self-centered approach. If you love something, understand it and then dedicate yourself to protecting it. Act. And if your love doesn't lie with coastal regions then figure out what it is that you love and invest heavily in whatever that may be.
This second theme was wonderfully illustrated in the film as the Chilean Gauchos were shown riding to Santiago to make their case heard. Activism is activism regardless of the means. Some people are confused when they see activism happening via the internet versus in person. From my perspective, every tool available should be exploited to protect coastal areas,whether that be Gauchos on horseback or 14,000 letters to Obama to restore the Federal moratorium on net new offshore drilling.
You don't have to travel thousands of miles to find a place to plug in. Check out a local chapter, and find out what's going on in your beach community. Listen to Kristine, if you love something... act.
The last theme was one that keeps me up at night; "how do you shift culture with regard to consumption rates, energy use, and raw materials use without using all those same things to shift culture?" For me, the low-point of this film was the last camera shot at the film's closing. The larger message of dirtbagging and living with less was discounted when the film ended with camera shooting from a helicopter/plane. It seemed in-congruent with the overarching themes. Part of me thinks I'm being too critical, but whether we admit it or not, we're all savvy consumers. We see these things. Watching that shot made me wince and then look inward. The shot gave me the same tension I feel when I think about the paper used in our bi-monthly newsletter Making Waves. After you get past all the enviro-positioning (recycled paper, soy inks, etc.), it is STILL printed on paper, just like Patagonia's catalogs. It's this tension that was the third thing I took away from this film. I was seeing the true impact of paper mills in the film and being reminded of our collective overuse of all raw materials. I suppose that's the way Jeff and Yvon would want it. That kind of tension is good, it's GOOD that it keeps us up at night, because there is a ton of change needed if we're going to turn that 180 degrees... and walk forward.
(Note: Avail as a free/instant view on Netflix)