We started and ended last week with youth screenings. On Monday, we drove to San Rafael, where the Mill Valley Film Festival's Environmental Youth Forum was screening Worse Than Poop!
Vanessa and Elliot onstage with "Racing with Copepods" Producer Barbara McVeigh
On Friday, we attended a screening as part of Los Altos High School's annual "History Week" - which had an environmental theme this year.
Vanessa and Elliot answer questions at a Los Altos High School screening of Worse Than Poop!
As you might imagine, the elementary and middle school audience on Monday was a bit more engaged than the high school students - most of whom agreed that the film was most appropriate for a k-8 audience. Still, when I asked the high school students if they thought it might be appropriate for 9th and 10th graders, a few shyly raised their hands. And the parent volunteer who introduced us (a middle-aged surgeon) spared no effort in finding scatological references for his introduction ("I think you'll find it's a moving experience", etc.).... Proof, yet again, that you're never too old for poop jokes.
Today was a big day - in part because today I officially FINISHED Worse Than Poop! Last night, I received the last and final animation, and I just finished editing it into the final cut. I am uploading the finished film as I type! Those of you who supported our Kickstarter campaign will be receiving a download link very soon.
But as anyone who isn't living under a rock will also note, today is also the Day After Election Day here in the US - and in particular, an Election Day on which almost all of the candidates and issues we were supporting got thoroughly trounced at the polls.
Elliot watches Brian Schmidt interviewed on election night at KMTV.
One particularly bitter loss was for our friend Brian Schmidt, who was running for re-election to the Santa Clara County Water District Board. His opponent, a Silicon Valley millionaire, refused to abide by voluntary campaign spending limits, and outspent Brian 22-to-1. His opponent had no experience in two of the three areas for which the Water District Director is responsible (environmental management and flood protection), but in the end he managed to win the election by a narrow margin. This morning, I told Elliot, "This is a tiny microcosm of what is wrong with our entire voting system - and we need to fix it." When you have unlimited spending, the rich - or their proxies - get elected. Which in most cases does not make for honest or good government - or, for that matter, an electorate that believes in the process of democracy. (Is it any wonder that we had less than 30% turnout at the polls in California, in the most expensive mid-term election in US history?)
However, I am choosing to focus on the positive. One measure that did pass yesterday was Palo Alto's Measure B, which will fund some much-needed bicycle infrastructure here - including retrofitting a truly dreadful narrow cement bicycle underpass at the California Avenue train station that has tormented me and countless Palo Alto cyclists for decades.
This nasty underpass' days are numbered! Try pulling your kid in a trailer through that...
And as my friend Joylette Portlock says, no one ever got depressed into action. With the government this country just elected, we're going to need more action than ever - so I also made a donation today to the Sierra Club, and signed up to participate in a visioning exercise here in Palo Alto for 'big, bold' ideas for sustainability.
And as for Worse Than Poop! - I'll be meeting next week with Carleen Cullen of Cool the Earth, to see if we can hash out a plan to get some funding for a Spanish-language version, some DVD packaging, a study guide, and a resource-rich website. We'd like to include all of these - for free - with Cool the Earth's climate kits, distributed to schools across North America. I'm also talking with some other organizations looking at the possibility of using the film for climate awareness outreach to children and families. There's plenty of work to be done - it's time to just roll up our sleeves and get busy.
This fall, I agreed to become a Traffic Safety Representative for Elliot's school, along with a Spanish biking superdad (and Facebook programmer) named Ender.
Our awesome Walk & Roll banner, painted by the after-school kids club.
One of our main responsibilities as TSR is to run the semi-annual Walk & Roll event, as part of National Walk to School Week. Walk & Roll events encourage families to get their kids to school by bike or on foot. Since our k-5 school pulls students from all over the city and beyond, we also include carpooling - and riding the bus - as acceptable ways to "walk and roll" to our school.
Our awesome Walk & Roll team in front of the Wall of Fame: Palo Alto Safe Routes to Schools coordinator Kathy Durham, Vanessa Warheit, Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd, PAUSD Superintendent Max McGee, Ender Martinez, and Amy Butte
Fresh off my trip to New York for the Peoples Climate March, I was really fired up to make a difference - so I pushed for a full week of action. My rationale was that starting a new habit takes repetition - and if we could get people out of their single-family-cars for an entire week, they might be more willing to keep up their new habits on a regular basis.
Bike racks were full during Walk & Roll week - and car drop-offs were really, really low.
The week we picked turned out to be a four-day week - which was probably a good thing, as we were all completely fried by the end of the week! Every day we got to school early, served bagels and coffee to parents and students, shared carpooling resources with parents, and punched punch-cards for every student participating in the event. We had students put stickers on a giant "How Did We Get to School?" chart, and we asked families to post their "Roll Model" pledges on a "Wall of Fame." We kicked off the week with smoothies made by "bike blender" - powered by parents and the Palo Alto Mayor and Superintendent. Every afternoon, we punched punchcards and cheered on the families that were biking, walking, and carpooling. But despite the grueling pace, Walk & Roll Week gave me a great opportunity: to look kids, and parents, in the eye, and give them a heart-felt THANK YOU for doing the right thing. I got to be relentlessly positive every morning for four days in a row - which, when you're dealing with climate change, is a real blessing.
PAUSD Superintendent McGee helps students get their cards punched
Ender takes on the mad morning coffee rush (and he doesn't even like coffee!)
Bagels donated by Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels - served fresh every morning
Students participating: 279
Number of walk/roll/school-pool trips logged to/from school: 1,563
Number of students logging 8 or 9 walk & roll trips: 103
Average # of walk & roll trips per participating student: 6
Pounds of CO2 poop (estimated) NOT emitted by our school: 1,700
Yours truly - in a sea of walkers & rollers
Time will tell how many families continue their good commuting habits. But with the drought persisting, we've at least got plenty of dry, warm days ahead to help encourage biking.
Worse Than Poop!
Why is carbon dioxide worse than poop? Find out with the help of an 8-year-old science expert, the Green Ninja, and a fleet of pooping cars!
Today, humans are creating more than 38 billion tons of carbon pollution every year - in fact, over 2 million pounds of it gets spewed into the air every second. This massive amount of pollution is now threatening the climate that all life depends on, and in the US, almost a third of that pollution comes from transportation. But the problem with CO2 is that you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t taste it - and that makes it hard for people to take it seriously. But what if you could see it? What if the 19 pounds of crap coming out of your car’s tailpipe was... crap?
Elliot Ingle, a bespectacled 8-year old wearing a necktie and lab coat, takes us on a short journey to imagine just such a reality. Using a combination of live action video and animation, “Worse than Poop” will illustrate basic scientific facts (why DOES a gallon of gas produce 19 pounds of CO2? How is that possible - and where does it go?). It will also work to undermine some outmoded cultural norms (what’s a better status symbol - a poo-spattered Lexus or a spiffy clean Tesla - or a fun shiny bike with a cool sidecar?). Featuring mom’s minivan (one pound of poo per mile!), the lumbering Suburban (19 pounds of poop in only 10 miles!), the Tesla S (faster than a speeding Captain Underpants!), the Nissan Leaf, the Mitsubishi i, and a flotilla of electric and people-powered bicycles and scooters, “Worse than Poop” will engage children ages 5-12 in the most important issue of our time: rejection of the fossil fuel lifestyle.
It’s bound to make a difference. I mean, what kid doesn’t love talking about poop?
Climate change facts, what is climate change, climate change definition.