Sustainability and Sust Enable: Reflexivity

This theme is closely related to the theme of holism.

If we are to assume that in a sustainable system, all aspects of the system are somehow unified, somehow all-one, and are in fact irreducible (systems-thinking), then it follows that in that same system, anything the system does ends up impacting itself in some way. Therefore, if an organism pollutes its environment, it will end up polluting itself. If an organism enriches its environment, it improves its chances of survival overall. In a sustainable system, meaning and value come from the system’s own processes.

For further resources on reflexivity in art:

Interpreting Reflexivity in Sust Enable

Reflexivity and holism are particularly important themes because their influence pervades through all levels of our film. By seeking to embody sustainability at one level (the story), we are compelled to apply it reflexively on all levels (the style and the process).

On the level of the story, we choose to follow the organically evolving lifestyle of the film’s director, and, to a smaller extent, the film’s own processes, in looking for evidence of the generic claims about sustainability made by our interviewees. For example, if an interviewee argues for why a sustainable system must be adaptable, that section of the narrative will explore how our director Caroline’s life now, and in contrast to her extreme lifestyle-change project in 2008, incorporates (or fails to incorporate) said principle.

On the level of the style, as the film’s story progresses from simplistic to increasingly complex facts and models of sustainability, with each sustainable feature comprising a small sequence, the film’s style will adapt and mirror the feature being discussed in the narrative. For example, while an interviewee discusses the significance of stakeholder participation to a sustainable system, the camera may passed around to several different crew members to “show” their perspectives and the role they play in the story.

On the level of our processes, we will constantly challenge ourselves to consider how our own processes incorporate the principles of sustainability that we learn about. Since we can never know absolutely what the meaning of sustainability is, we will closely analyze our own processes to determine what works best for us, and with this knowledge, we will shape our narrative structure around which themes resonate most with us.

This post is one of a series about The Sust Enable Project’s main themes and principles.  These are themes that have emerged from our sustainability research, that we plan to fully embody in our sustainable filmmaking process.  For more posts like this, check out the Core Themes and Principles category of posts.


Sustainability and Sust Enable: Holism


In a holistic model, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

At first impression, this theme suggests that everything is unified. We are all one. Any human being is actually a complex of other organisms, and the natural environment from which we receive sustenance, is made up of other organisms. Thus, all living things are profoundly interconnected, and the boundaries between us are fluid.  Our world is thus defined not through objects, but through relationships between subjects; not through hard boundaries between things, but through networks among beings.

This requires a shift from the way we tend to view the world, as clearly defined objects and patterns that can be rationally reduced and parsed. In a holistic situation, breaking the system down into parts actually obscures a more subtle nature of the system, that can only be understood when considering the system as a dynamic whole. For our film, interviewees that will touch on this theme include Charles Eisenstein, Phil Seneca, Dr. Michael Ben-Eli, Dr. Allenna Leonard, and more.

Interpreting Holism in Sust Enable: “Systems Thinking,” Holistic Design, and Focusing on the Process

The means must reflect and embody the ends. You must have a sustainable process to achieve sustainable results. Holism is perhaps the theme that most profoundly influences the design of Sust Enable: The Metamentary.

We will interpret this theme in the story by drawing attention to the unity of purpose in the two Sust Enable projects, despite their vast differences in approach. We will illustrate how my current lifestyle holistically incorporates sustainability choices in dynamic balance with other goals in my life—for example, commuting by bicycle is an integrated daily choice that balances my needs for fitness, transportation, community, acquiring skills, and conserving fuel.

Stylistically, we may begin the film with a scene that we revisit at the conclusion with deepened meaning. Or we may, when appropriate, look for parallels between ostensibly divergent points of view and show how they line up conceptually (for example, juxtaposing an indigenous activist’s interview commentary with that of an academic specialist to illustrate agreement.)

Our production processes reflect this theme through our film’s unique approach of seeking to embody sustainability principles (including holism!) at all levels of the film’s creation. We must consider how every decision incorporates sustainability principles as much as possible, and how a choice regarding the story layout, for example, has implications in the real world, and vice versa.

This post is one of a series about The Sust Enable Project’s main themes and principles.  These are themes that have emerged from our sustainability research, that we plan to fully embody in our sustainable filmmaking process.  For more posts like this, check out the Core Themes and Principles category of posts.