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Montana’s inconvenient truths

Five Planets makes climate change a local concern

Academy Award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth ends with a long list of actions viewers can take to fight climate change. Nowhere on that list is “Make your own movie about the science of global warming and solutions in your hometown.”

But when Holly Schroeder saw Davis Guggenheim’s film featuring Al Gore’s global warming slide show last October at a Missoula screening, that’s just what she decided to do.

“I had always believed that global warming was happening,” says Schroeder, “but there were things that haunted me for the next few days after that and I thought I just have to do something.”

At the screening Schroeder attended, University of Montana ecology professor Steve Running—a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body developing and updating the scientific consensus about climate change—got up and gave his own slide show about the effects of the phenomenon in Montana.

“Having Steve’s PowerPoint right there,” says Schroeder, “I thought it would be great to make a movie about it: An Inconvenient Truth for Montana.”

But Schroeder was guarded in her expectations of the project. The novice filmmaker—her previous experience is limited to recording some presentations for broadcast on Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT)—wasn’t even sure local experts would take her calls.

“I thought, I’ll call Steve Running and ask him and he’ll say ‘No’ and I can continue to use my ski pass,” recalls Schroeder. “But he said ‘Yes,’ and then I started calling other people like the mayors of Billings and Bozeman and they all said ‘Yes.’ Everybody I called said ‘Yes.’”

So began the filming of Five Planets: Montanans at the Crossroads of Global Warming, a six-month project in which Schroeder interviewed the likes of wind-energy engineers in Judith Gap, mayors of major state cities and local advocates for sustainable practices, such as Bob Giordano of Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Matt Hisel of Home Resources–even KECI weatherman Mark Heyka. Spliced between those interviews is Running’s presentation, a data-rich examination of how global climate change manifests itself locally as receding glaciers, more intense fire seasons and other impacts.

Schroeder, who sells hemp clothing locally, enlisted the help of two other Missoulians, Jane Grochowski and Robbie Liben, in shooting the footage and structuring the nearly hour-long film. Liben says working on the project revealed just how daunting the climate change challenge has become.

“One of my favorite quotes from making the movie,” says Liben, “is from [Missoula] Mayor [John] Engen who says, ‘Any discussion of land use is a discussion of global warming’ because…addressing global warming is about asking ‘Are you making suburbs where people have no choice but to drive? Are you making shopping areas that can’t be reached except by cars? Are you setting up your whole society so you do not have a choice to not use a car?’”

After having immersed themselves in the problems posed by climate change and the solutions Montanans are developing, Schroeder and Liben are hopeful but not quite convinced the willpower exists to alter our way of life and address the issue. Asked if such a turnaround is possible, both fall silent and look at each other.

“We’ve had this discussion,” says Schroeder, who shares a nervous laugh with Liben before continuing. “Whether we can or not, we have to try.”

Five Planets: Montanans at the Crossroads of Global Warming premieres Saturday, April 21, at the Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins Ave. 7 PM. Free.

Dig the planet
Every day (this week, anyway) is Earth Day

Thursday, April 19

UM students invite you to bring your empties to the Oval where they will be collecting glass for pulverizing and recycling from 5 to 10 PM while a movie-fueled eco-festival featuring Missoula Mayor John Engen’s explanation of “Missoula’s Climate Commitment” rages. Visit or call 243-5135 for more info.

Friday, April 20

See electricity generated without fossil fuel at noon during an open house at the alternative energy site at noon at MonTEC, 1121 E. Broadway.

Generate funding for Missoula Valley Recycling to bring some earthy ethics to Missoula Public Schools during a fundraiser from 6 to 11 PM at the Stensrud Building. Call 543-2972.

Saturday, April 21

Join the Clark Fork Coalition in picking up the banks of Missoula’s central river during the fourth annual River Cleanup, kicking off between 9 and 10 AM in Caras Park, where you can get an assignment and some equipment for the chore, and concluding at noon with a barbecue in the park. Call 542-0539.

Pull weeds and spread native seeds on Mount Sentinel at 10 AM. Call 243-5153.

Fund affordable housing when Habitat for Humanity collects aluminum at the Wal-Mart on the south side of town, UM’s Oval, Home Depot and Pacific Steel from 10 AM to 4 PM. Call 549-8210.

The 10th annual Festival of Cycles invites you to reuse and recycle the equipment needed to fuel your zero-emissions bicycle from noon to 4 PM in Bonner Park. Visit

Dumpster dive for recyclables in the shed behind UM Facility Services at 1 PM. Call 243-5153.

Get some dung under your fingernails while doing farm chores at the PEAS Farm on Duncan Drive, where making earth through compost is on the agenda at 2 PM. Call 523-3663.

Watch the premiere of Five Planets: Montanans at the Crossroads of Global Warming (see above) at 7 PM in the Roxy Theater.

Sunday, April 22

Celebrate “Living Sustainable Solutions!” when MUD sponsors music, biofuel and hybrid car demos, glass crushing, kids’ activities and adult beverages from noon to 7 PM in Caras Park. Call 721-7513.


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