Film screening shares projects going on now to promote clean energy in the U.S.

 The first of six documentary showings, “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” was screened Monday night in the Student Union Theater as part of the ongoing environmental metanoia. (Photo courtesy of the film series)

The first of six documentary showings, “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” was screened Monday night in the Student Union Theater as part of the ongoing environmental metanoia. (Photo courtesy of the film series)

The first of six documentary showings, “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” was screened Monday night in the Student Union Theater as part of the ongoing environmental metanoia. Directed by James Redford, the documentary explores the uses of clean energy and how they influence communities, particularly focusing on projects that are in the works right now.

The documentary follows Redford as he travels around the country, exploring the various kinds of renewable energy: solar, solar thermal, wind, hydropower and micro hydropower.

Released in 2017, the documentary was very focused on what’s happening now, hence the title. It emphasized the progress clean energy has made in the last decade, as it becomes cleaner, cheaper and more popularly accepted.

In addition to how the technology has developed, Redford explores specific projects such as PUSH, People United for Sustainable Housing, which works on building houses that run on solar power, collect rainwater and use the design of the building for heating and cooling, and Natel Energy, which works with micro hydropower.

“Something I was looking up after was the micro hydropower,” eighth semester chemical engineering student Jack Powers said. “I didn’t realize the application for small scale hydropower, and how it doesn’t disrupt the existing agriculture.”

Several UConn professors who stuck around after the screening emphasized some of the projects that UConn can undertake to work on becoming greener.

Chemical engineering professor Richard Parnas spoke about the Spring Valley Student Farm, a one-acre student-run organic farm that serves as “a living laboratory for sustainable food systems,” according to Parnas. The farm is open Tuesdays for tours, and on Fridays, students are welcome to come and help with the work.

“There are lots of projects we’re working on and we’re inviting the university in as part of the metanoia,” Parnas said. “Once you understand something, you have to do something about it. And a lot of people here are trying to do something about it, and one thing we can do is tell students about it.”

In addition to projects that people all over the United States are participating in, Redford’s documentary also emphasized the power of politics in environmental movements, particularly focusing on clean energy battles in Nevada.

“One thing from the documentary was how important understanding energy policy is,” LouAnne Cooley said. Cooley is a graduate law student and research assistant at the Center for Energy and Environmental Law. With a background in biology, Cooley returned to school “to get a sense of policy” in environmental contexts.

Overall, the documentary walked a line between large- and small-scale movements. It went back and forth discussing the ways you can trick out your own house to use clean energy, the ways that Apple has become 100 percent renewable and all the politics that are necessary to keep renewable energy viable.

“I think this was important because, like they said in the film, it seems really big and off-putting,” fourth semester environmental studies student Matti Shaw-Patino said, “but in reality, seeing individual backstories makes you want to react and do something, even if it’s really not that big.”


Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.houdeshell@uconn.edu.