Documentary 'Normal Is Over' a call to action for human survival
With a plethora of activities throughout April, the city of Elgin Sustainability Commission is attempting to transform Earth Day into Earth Month.
To highlight the urgency of caring for the planet, award-winning investigative TV-journalist Renée Scheltema will appear at Elgin Community College at a viewing of her documentary, "Normal Is Over" at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 18. Tickets are free. She will answer questions after the viewing.
Scheltema is a Dutch documentarian who has been producing films for 35 years and is on tour to offer her message of hope and practical fixes as well as sounding a sobering alarm on the state of the world.
"The documentary examines how our economic and financial systems connect all these issues and offers solutions, which could be implemented immediately, from practical everyday fixes to rethinking the overarching myths of our time," she said.
The science behind the danger of an overtaxed environment is not new to Scheltema.
She became concerned as a 21-year-old after reading a book called "The Limits to Growth: A Report for the Club of Rome's Project on the Predicament of Mankind" by Donella H. Meadows. The book, written in 1972, discussed the earth's interlocking natural resources and exposed the credible danger that the resources would not be able to withstand economic and population growth.
Scheltma set about producing a series of documentaries on the subject. She was, however, ahead of her time.
"I felt like a lone wolf calling and I spoke about environmental police and people laughed at me as if I were a fool," she remembered.
Scheltema is convinced that there is a link between financial gain and the powers that be and the dwindling resources of a dying planet.
"They want to continue economic growth on a finite planet, but we're already living on a credit card, We already need one and a half planets to survive."
"Levels of pollution and carbon dioxide have increased and America and Western Europe are some of the biggest polluters in the world."
Although climate change is discussed by just about everyone from politicians, to the media, to neighbors over their back fences, it is not the primary issue as far as Scheltema is concerned.
"What bothers me is that people talk about climate change caused by pollution and they think with renewable energy we will solve the world's problems," she said. "Climate change is a symptom, not the actual problem. Species extinction is also a symptom and refugees are also a symptom. It's too simple. We can't feed everyone."
It's not surprising that Scheltema is frustrated, not only with the state of the planet, but with the almost willful disregard for the science on a subject she has thoroughly studied and reported on for decades and what she believes is the misdirection and simplification of some media stories.
"I understand what's going on and this sounds a little arrogant, I'm a studious person, I have lots of experience and made lots of documentaries," she said.
"If the news shows a flood in Bangladesh, I want to know why and I don't just want to know how many people died. I want to know why that flood's there," Scheltema said. "The explanation is that they cut the trees in the Himalayas, then I understand why so many deaths and what we can do about it -- namely, not cut trees, plant trees."
Another source of frustration has been the difficulty she has experienced with finding funding.
"My biggest wish is that the word gets spread somehow and someone will get up and say 'Renee, how much money do you need?' I'd like to have a marketing team and a PR team, but they need to be paid. Unlike me, I work for free," she continued. "I rented out my house, I got a loan and I'm standing here to get the message out. I'd love to find a foundation to get the message out,"
Another reason Scheltema has had difficulty lining up outside sponsorship for the last couple of years was a personal nightmare that stopped her in her tracks.
"My youngest daughter insisted that she was going to help me during the editing process so she became an art director and she transcribed all the interviews and she made all the animation and the film starts with her looking over mountains. Two days after the film was completed, in 2015, she passed away in a car accident," she said.
"In 2016, 2017 and last year I've been grieving so much that I wasn't able to sign a contract or (have) the strength to get the word out," Scheltema said.
Now, she's back on the road meeting with prominent experts and everyday citizens to concentrate on matters such as organic agriculture, the banning of plastic, saving species, ecological economics, sustainable architecture, renewable energy, and more, looking for help and garnering hope at the same time.
"So, I'm a wounded soul, but I have somehow managed to integrate the loss of Lisa into my life in such a way that I'm ready to get the word out this way," she said.
"When you watch the film, please watch till after the credits -- not just because there is a call to action and what you can do, even though I suggest 25 actions people can take," Scheltma. "You don't have to take these actions. You can do something within your own talent."
If you goWhat: Showing of documentary 'Normal Is Over' followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Renee Scheltema
When: 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18
Where: Elgin Community College 1700 Spartan Drive, Building B, Rooms B-180 & B-181 (Heritage and Community rooms), Elgin
Tickets: Free at EventBrite.com