‘What a Way to Go’ invites reflection | TheUnion.com

‘What a Way to Go’ invites reflection

You are a human being. This means you are a philosopher. If you fashion thought, if you regard the world in and around you, you are a philosopher. This distinguishes the human animal.

Film clips throughout the documentary “What a Way to Go” are creatively and smartly assembled and include many talking heads offering telling commentary. The experts in the film tell an integrated story of the cataclysmic weight of overpopulation, unsustainable growth, global climate change and the inevitable collapse of resources from oil, to food, to water, to air.

Have a nice day.

“What a Way to Go” is a patently depressing synthesis of considerations that are jabbing our awareness more and more. Yet here’s the reason to see this film: This surprisingly low-key cinematic essay encourages and compels philosophical reflection. And at Nevada City’s Oddfellows Hall tonight, the film makers will be present to enliven the theme. This may be a first rate alternative to a visit from Al Gore.

This film isn’t a call to action the way Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is. Nor will it sell tickets as did Gore’s cinematic wake-up call about moral, political and economic imperatives. “What a Way to Go” asks “What is a life well lived?” However, it pretty much expects you to carry on the discussion beyond viewing the film.

“What a Way to Go” is the opposite of funny. Nonetheless, consider one of its quotations: “One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

How should we act as we face, to say the least, dire challenges? For discussion’s sake, here’s a train of thought that’s not in the film. Scientist and humanist Stephen Jay Gould has suggested that we can’t destroy the planet. The planet will do fine. We humans are such a hugely improbable, one-of-a-kind experiment that it seems more than a shame not to try to sustain it.


Chuck Jaffee lives in Nevada City. Find his other reviews

for The Union at


“What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire” will screen tonight, Oct. 25, at 6:30 at the Oddfellows Hall, 113 Church St., Grass Valley. Doors open at 6, and finger foods will be offered.

An in-depth dialogue with the filmmakers, Tim Bennett and Sally Erickson, will take place after the screening.

The suggested donation is $10-$25 at the door. Contact Ken Hale at (530) 273-3018 or kenh_ee@yaho.com for more information. For a videotape of a peak moment conversation with movie makers Bennett and Erickson, go to http://www.peakmoment.tv/conversations.

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