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Carbon Nation 

Thursday, Feb 17 2011

CARBON NATION Built more like an education module than a documentary, Carbon Nation might make you nostalgic for those blissful days when the substitute teacher slapped on a science video and hid in the faculty lounge. Director Peter Byck opted for corny graphics, a wall of statistics, a voice-of-God narrator and a xylophonic score, but behind the infomercial presentation are solid ideas that warrant scrutiny. Byck focuses on the energy crisis from outside the global-warming debate, homing in on its moral, economic and national-security imperatives and identifying some increasingly viable solutions. Alternative energy sources — algae, wind, geothermal — are showcased, but Carbon Nation is most persuasive when it focuses on the individuals utilizing those supplies in their communities. A segment on Grid Alternatives, an organization that enlists the underemployed to install solar panels in poor neighborhoods, exemplifies the film's drumbeat maxim: A green economy is a labor economy. Some of the proposals — getting truck drivers to turn off their engines while they sleep, painting rooftops white — seem infuriatingly obvious. And yet the clean-energy pioneers depicted in the film underscore the idea that countering the brainlessness of so much of our current oil-guzzling, overconsuming behavior with inversely compelling, eco-friendly no-brainers is a strategy with not just economics but human nature on its side. (Michelle Orange) (Sunset 5)

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