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VegParadise Media Reviews

How to Boil a Frog: make friends/make fun/make trouble

A Film Written and Directed by Jon Cooksey

Fools Bay Entertainment, Ltd., 2010

DVD Pre-order price $15

In the docu-comedy How to Boil a Frog, filmmaker Jon Cooksey illuminates the devastating natural problems our planet faces and encourages people to take actions that may prevent a horrific ecological disaster. His message delivered with humor is that we need not be passive in the face of calamity, but instead he encourages us to "make friends/make fun/make trouble."

Not only the writer and director of the film, Cooksey is also the narrator who appears on the screen in a number of energetic roles and inventive guises. Throughout the production he displays irreverence by using phrases like "kick ass" and "That pisses me off" when people declare they are trying to save the planet. He feels the planet will survive no matter what happens. It's the people on it that may cease to exist.

Cooksey makes it clear he is not a tree hugger. He tells his audience, "I'm a people hugger" as he moves toward the camera to give it a hug.

How to Boil a Frog The filmmaker provides a brief historical view of global warming by taking viewers back to the 19th Century when the greenhouse effect was first discussed and when coal burning was first blamed for adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and increasing global temperature.

One of the major points of the film is that global warming is not THE problem, but a symptom of a much larger difficulty. Cooksey describes the difficulty as "overshoot." He says, "We have gone beyond what nature provides. We have been living on our ecological credit card. We are screwed."

Along with this "war on nature," Cooksey focuses on overpopulation where the number of people on the planet has doubled during the last 20 years. By 2050 one in nine people in the world will be refugees. He also shows that we have already reached Peak Oil and are going downhill in the supply of oil available.

The film examines the battle of the rich versus the poor. New to many viewers may be the concept of the Gini Coefficient that is commonly used as a measure of inequality of income or wealth in a country. The United States and Kenya share a Gini Coefficient of 45. The smaller the number is, the less inequality of income occurs in that nation. Japan and Sweden are lowest on this scale at 25 while Namibia has the greatest wealth disparity with 70. In the United States 10% of the people are taking home half of the national income while 90% are realizing the other half.

Plastics have become a major ecological problem. "Every piece of plastic ever made is still in the environment," says Cooksey. "North Americans throw away 1/2 pound of plastics every day." He reports that 60 billion tons of plastic are produced annually, and much of it is ending up in the oceans where it has caused destruction of fish.

Unlike many films that present environmental issues but offer no solutions, How to Boil a Frog presents suggestions trumpeted in its subtitle: "make friends/make fun/make trouble."

Revealing that Exxon is responsible for 3% of the world's global warming since 1882, the film suggests driving past Exxon instead of filling up there. "Change your light bulbs," Cooksey advises. Vegetarians will love his suggestion that people cut down on beef consumption because 10% of global warming comes from cows. Each cow burps 500 quarts of methane into the atmosphere daily.

Couples having only one child will reduce an enormous amount of CO2 emissions. In stressing the need for population restraint, he may anger some Catholics by showing a picture of Pope Benedict with the caption "Celibate and Loving It."

The film encourages viewers to make trouble. One technique is to use Youtube as the giant killer. One determined group in British Columbia was able to stop a so-called clean coal facility planned by an energy company by making a Youtube video showing people protesting. The Canadians even revealed the name and phone number of the company's CEO in a mini documentary they produced. Using tactics like these, they were able to stop the coal facility from being built.

Jon Cooksey Cooksey urges "relocalization" where people transform their neighborhood into a small town or village. They would begin to grow their own food in a community garden. People of different skills would share them with others and possibly set up a co-housing facility. Co-housing is exemplified by Windsong, a model community near Vancouver in British Columbia. Film viewers visit Windsong, a multigenerational project with almost 100 people who live together in a sustainable lifestyle while enjoying the benefits of "a relationship of trust."

The title of the film refers to the often-told metaphor of boiling a frog. The story says a frog dumped into boiling water will hop out immediately. On the other hand, if the frog is placed in cold water that is heated gradually, it will be cooked to death. Cooksey and others are saying the people on this planet are in the same position as the frog in cold water. If we do nothing, we will all end up as boiled frogs.

Taking serious environmental problems and revealing them in a light-hearted manner may be a non-starter for many people, but Jon Cooksey succeeds by holding the viewers attention with animated bits, scenes from classic films, and numerous news clips. He even climbs into a casket to make a point.

At this point How to Boil a Frog needs some backing and financial support so that its message can reach the wide audience it deserves. As Cooksey explains, "We paid for the film out of our own pockets, which are now empty, so to release the movie on DVD, we have to raise money to pay for the DVD rights to the songs and stock footage."

For a limited time, anyone wanting to support the film can purchase a pre-order DVD for $15 by going to Cooksey's How to Boil a Frog website While there visitors may also view a trailer for the film.

We feel privileged to have viewed How to Boil a Frog at an advanced screening, and with no hesitation give it a VIP two thumbs up. We were pleasantly amazed that this talented filmmaker could focus on such serious ecological problems and still create a film that is so entertaining.

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