Posted by: Mike Grenville | 28 February 2009

The Great Squeeze – Film Review

The Great Squeeze
Subtitled ‘Surviving the Human Project’, this new film from the producers of Energy Crossroads covers not just the impact Peak Oil will have but looks at how the coming together of wider resource depletion, climate change, water systems and their combined impact on the whole of our interdependent civilisation.

With the current size of world population and the interdependence of global food and energy markets, The Great Squeeze underlines how a problem in one part of the world becomes a problem for all of us. “As the world is so interconnected now” says Lester Brown, “a failing state affects us all”. He warns that these are an early sign of a failing civilisation.

Although the film inevitably has its share of talking heads, they are interspersed with a varied array of good quality film material. The familiar Richard Heinberg plays a key role explaining Peak Oil issues as clearly as ever, but most of the other faces are not all the usual suspects and for once there is a selection women. They include author of ‘The Long Emergency’ James Howard Kunstler; agricultural economist and the founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute Lester Brown; President and CEO of Population Action International Amy Coen and marine ecosystems advocate Alexandra Cousteau.

Not A Drop To Drink

Water and the oceans plays a key part in this film. With sharks being hunted to extinction just for their fins, Alexandra Cousteau — granddaughter of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau — tells us that 97% of the ocean’s big fish are gone.

With so much of the rain that falls now being consumed, even small variations in precipitation can have big impacts. For example the shrinking glaciers in India and China as rivers such as the Ganges become seasonal only flows, is not just a problems for people remote from us. As much of the world has been spending its money on buying its energy and products from the Middle East and China, they have built up huge cash reserves. With one global food economy as rivers dry up they will go shopping for food elsewhere – driving up food prices astronomically.

End of Suburbia” moment

Reviewing the film on Energy Bulletin, Kristin Sponsler concludes that if viewers “don’t reach an “End of Suburbia” moment after seeing the multiple critiques of our energy, economic, and environmental situation that are offered in The Great Squeeze, they probably never will.”

While presenting some very stark insights, like Energy Crossroads before it, this film also concludes that it is possible to get through this situation. But to do this as Heinberg says “we have to start valuing human happiness and surroundings instead of just GDP and dollars.” He reminds us that “the human economy is a part of nature and not the other way round and we are going to have to learn the rules.”

While the film is US-centric, it is relevant to audiences elsewhere. The mobilisation of USA in 1941 to engage in the war and also the Apollo program to the moon are cited as examples of how rapid change could happen.

While there are few solutions presented by the film, it brings together the impacts of both Peak Oil and Climate Change on the entire globe.


The 67 min film is available on DVD for $20 and is playable worldwide. To use the DVD for a public performance a licence can be purchased online for $75.

See the trailer here:


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