Filmmaker Interview: David Lavallée on ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ Climate Change & Pollution


I was working as a hiking guide
in the Canadian Rockies and sort of, you know, watching climate change
in action kind of thing. When you’re living
in the mountains, you’re sort of on the front
lines of climate change– you see the glaciers melting, you see droughts happening,
things like that. So that sort of gave me the
impetus to make my first film. And from that, it– the part of the process
when you’re editing a film, there’s a lot of stuff
that has to end up on the cutting-room floor. And so I realized that
there was a whole part of the story
that wasn’t being told and that this dichotomy
that we have in our society of, “Well, you know, it’s the
economy or the environment “and you got to
choose one or the other.” And I thought to myself,
“Well, what if these projects “that are damaging
our environment “are also not economically
sustainable? “Is that possible?” And that was essentially
what drove me. So ‘To the Ends of the Earth’ is about the rise
of extreme energy, sometimes called
“unconventional energy,” “unconventional oil and gas.” And the economic
ramifications of that and how we adapt as a society to
this new reality going forward. Unconventional oil and gas
is fracking, it’s tar sands bitumen. It’s, you know, different kind–
Arctic oil, things like that. And so the more I looked
at these things, yes there’s a huge amount
of resources out there and oftentimes large
oil companies or what have you,
governments as well, are always talking about the
size of the resource out there, but they’re not talking about
the quantity of that resource that you can
get out of the ground, in an economically
sustainable way. Essentially these companies,
what they’ll do is they’ll come into a community
and they’ll talk about, you know, how they’re gonna
build a recreation center, how it’s gonna be wonderful, there is gonna be all kinds of
jobs and things like that. And there is for
a short period of time– there are economic benefits
that flow into communities. However, these benefits
don’t last long. This isn’t conventional
natural gas. Conventional natural gas, you’ll have a field produce
for 20 or 30 years, but here it’s a year
or two years and it’s done. So it’s certainly not
the gas of yesteryear and the resources
of yesteryear. Essentially we’re at
a civilizational crossroads. So we can either choose
renewable energy, we can reduce
our consumption, we can aggressively pursue
that kind of a path, or we can do more of the same,
except with diminishing quality. What I’m hoping to do
with this film is to shift the conversation
around energy. And shift it away from
your sort of hackneyed, clichéd, “economy versus
environment” that, “Well, you know, we really
like the environment.” Everybody likes
the environment, nobody– you know, you’d be hard-pressed
to find anyone who says, “Oh, you know, the environment
is not important. “But we can’t harm the economy.” So the intended audience for
this film is essentially, I’d like to think,
it’s anyone who uses energy. So, well that’s
basically all of us. Energy touches
our lives in so many ways. And there-‑
you can’t get through life without using extraordinary
amounts of energy. In the landscape
of mainstream media, there’s not a lot of content that sort of challenges
the status quo. And so that can be challenging
as a filmmaker to reach the audience
that you want to reach. So something like
‘Documentary Showcase’ is a critical platform to be able to get
that out to the world. So if my film can help
kick-start a conversation about this new reality that
we’re facing, the new reality, and focus on positive ways
that we can shift our society, then it’s mission accomplished
for my film.

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