Hope in the face of apocalypse: A review of Inhabit movie

This review was originally posted two years ago on

8 years ago, I showed “What a Way to Go” to my family. I hope they would, as the movie tag line says, come to grips “with Peak Oil, Climate Change, Mass Extinction, Population Overshoot and the demise of the American lifestyle.”

Halfway through the movie my sister walked out. It wasn’t so much that she was opposed to the message of the movie. She just couldn’t take how relentlessly depressing it was.

I suspect all of us in the radical discipleship movement have been there at one time or another. We go through some form of the transformation that Tommy is documenting in his post-evangelical series. In one way or another we begin to grasp that catastrophic path our civilization is on. Which begs the question: How do we get others to recognize it to?

Broadly speaking, this is a question of pedagogy, or how people learn. Watching an accurate, though deeply demoralizing documentary was not the way to go for my sister. Messages of doom just aren’t that effective at winning converts.

The producers of the new documentary Inhabit clearly understand this. As one person interviewed in the film puts it, focusing on catastrophe has limited change potential. Their documentary is a lush, alluring opposite to “What a Way to Go”in many ways except one: the message is the same: ultimately industrial agriculture will destroy us all and we need an alternative.

From there the two films diverge dramatically: Inhabit opens by focusing on the hopeful, human-centered framework of regeneration: putting positive things back into the land. “We can actually be healing forces,” says permaculturalist Ben Falk.

“What could it be like if humans could make this place sing with life?” asks Lisa Fernandes, director of the The Resilience Hub. “That gets me really fired up.”


The practice of bioregional discipleship: herbalism, murals, bible study, permaculture, and Wolf’ems, oh my!

It’s been a month since Charletta and I arrived in the Los Angeles airport direct from our time with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Colombia. Now that we’ve caught our breath, I wanted to share with you a window into our first two whirlwind weeks here in the Ojai valley working with Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. Charletta and I were part of preparing for and hosting the July Bartimaeus Institute entitled “Rooting Faith: Theology and Practices of Bioregional Discipleship.” I focused on documenting the week for a wider audience through photography and video. This is my first experiment in Youtube journalism. Rather than write a lot about the week, I’ll give a basic introduction and then share the videos that I created:

Gathered round the fire

On the first night of the institute we gathered around the fire to sing songs and talk together at dusk (above). Aside from lodging, the event was hosted by Ched Myers and Elaine Enns in their house and their yard, which is entirely given over to vegetables, fruit trees and native plants. Mornings were spent doing Bible study and studying permaculture and afternoons were spent doing hands on learning of permaculture techniques in the garden. Evenings were practical workshops on a variety of subjects. Chris Grataski and Melissa Shank taught us about permaculture and herbalism.


Bioregionalism, peacemaking, fig trees and vines

Tree in Pasture at Sunset

Cross-posted from As of Yet Untitled

Earlier this month I was talking with my friend Chris about a talk he heard last weekend by Ched Myers on bio-regionalism. One of the key concepts from the presentation was: “You can’t save what you don’t love and you can’t love what you don’t know.” In other words, instead of thinking of abstract ideas like “environmentalism” we need to get to know our own place or “bio-region”.

Ched touches on similar themes in his recent blog post titled with a similar quote: “We Won’t Save Places We Don’t Love…”. He compares the way suburbanites relate to their place to the way farmers and indigenous communities relate to the land they live and work on.

Chris has been working with Christian Peacemaker Team’s local partners in Colombia since August 2008 when he graduated from the first training that I helped with after joining CPT. He pointed out that our local partners are not struggling for abstract concepts like justice or environmentalism. They are fighting for places that they know intimately. (more…)

Timor Leste & Detention

Well I am sitting down, forcing myself to write this. I’ve been back in my community in Perth Western Australia for about 2 months — I guess that’s long enough. The title is a lame attempt to sum up what the content of this entry is – you know like titles used to. I’ve not written for a while a number of reasons; writers block call it.

My wife and I were refused entry to the UK in early September, this event adding further interest to our Sabbath year. (We have been involved in a car accident, were in Melbourne at the time of ‘Black Saturday’, an old friend was murdered, we were not paid for work we did in Australia … I’m sure theres more)

Our experience at Heathrow was another first.We came to the gate at about 6 am local time and after a short conversation were placed somewhere for special people — in detention.After 4 or so hours we had a secondary interview and then told of our imminent return to our last port — Singapore, a cool 12 hour flight.

There was this sense in rubbing up against a beast, so large that even if we pushed with all our selves we would not move it. We resigned ourselves to returning. The beast was the UK’s Home Office.

The Home Office said that we were lying about our intention to come for a holiday for 5 months – that we were going to work. I’m a nine on the enneagram (I think) so I’m great at seeing other people’s point of view. I can see a little of what they meant, in our lack of preparation.

But, they wouldn’t let us access the internet to prove our cash resources, didn’t give us independent advice about our options, were not transparent about either processes or laws and relied on theories of what people will and will not do. I’m white and my first language is English and I was confused and frustrated by my treatment. I cannot begin to imagine the experience of others who were there. We met with people who were arbitrarily detained from Africa, Sri Lanka, and Brazil all of who were allowed in after some hours (their visas were fine only the staff took a disliking to something).  Spending time with them was great, we would try to comfort them, explain things to them and talk with them.