It’s tricky for the documentary filmmaker to put him or herself onto screen, making the documentarian a focus of the film. Michael Moore has done it successfully. Dave Gardner tries it now, taking on the role of not just documentary filmmaker but “Growthbuster” in his crusade against too much growth.
GrowthBusters plays on the name and trappings of the popular 1984 film—Ghostbusters—with documentary filmmaker Dave Gardner as the lead “Growthbuster.” Yes, it’s a hook that’s a little hokey, but when you’re dealing with “the greatest failing of humankind,” as Gardner describes our addiction to unsustainable growth, adding a little cornball humor helps us bear the extreme weightiness of the topic.
And not only are we acting unsustainable, Gardner says, “The proof is out there that we are in overshoot.” The scale of human enterprise—population, consumption, and the size of economies—has outgrown the planet. Yet humankind continues behaving as though there are no limits. He believes it’s largely cultural reasons that keep us from seeing we’re at the limits, and through Growthbusters, he’s spotlighting the roadblocks.
Gardner uses his hometown of Colorado Springs as a poster child for growth addiction. In the depiction of this south-central Colorado town, the viewer will quickly recognize most any town in the U.S.A.—one of urban sprawl, big box stores, other familiar chain stores of smaller size and massive parking lots to accommodate our car culture. Anchoring the story in his home base helps create the film’s narrative, as Gardner takes on the issue as the “no-growth” candidate in his bid for a city council seat and explores the sacrifices we make based on the blind faith that growth will solve a community’s problems and make it better.
The film features a wealth of interviews with the leading thinkers about sustainability, overpopulation and the impacts of too much growth. There’s Robert Engelman of Worldwatch Institute; Eben Fodor, the author of Better, Not Bigger; anthropologist/primatologist Jane Goodall; former Colorado governor and populationist Dick Lamm; population ecologist William Rees, Bill Ryerson of the Population Institute, Madeline Weld of the Population Institute of Canada, and many more.
Stanford University’s Paul Ehrlich, author of the seminal work, The Population Bomb, makes one of the most important connections to consumption and population—particularly for those who beat the drum primarily about the consumption side of the growth equation. “If you manage, somehow, to half each person’s consumption, on average,” he says, “but you allow population size to double, you haven’t gained at all, because, if you have half as much consumption, but twice as many persons, you’re right where you started.”
If you are someone who follows these issues, this is a film you will want to see. You can say, “This is what I’ve been talking about; thank you Gardner for framing this discussion!” If growth and overpopulation aren’t something you consider as a problem, this is for you too. GrowthBusters lays out the challenges and starts the discussion on solutions—something about which we all should be concerned.
Screenwriters: Sometimes your story is one you not only have to write, you have to direct and produce too—it’s your raison d’être! Gardner, who worked 30 years as a corporate filmmaker, spent six years creating GrowthBusters, because he believed “the world needed somebody to shine the light on these cultural challenges.”
For more about his documentary filmmaking experience, read a Q&A with Dave Gardner.
Go to http://GrowthBusters.org for a screening near you, to organize a screening or to order the film.
3 Purple PencilsDave Gardner Documentary Filmmaking Growth Maria Fotopoulos Screenwriting Write On Review Write On! Online Writing