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Recipes for Disaster
A Film by John Webster
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Concerned about the world's addiction to oil, and its disastrous environmental consequences for the planet such as global warming, the filmmaker convinces his family to go on an "oil diet" for one year to reduce their carbon footprint. Aiming to reduce their contribution to greenhouse gases, Webster-if not his wife and two young sons, who are very reluctant participants-is eager to learn from their experiment and becomes a man on a mission.

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Divided into thirteen eponymous chapters, RECIPES FOR DISASTER chronicles their efforts on a month by month basis, revealing the personal difficulties involved in making such a radical change in lifestyle, and the surprising extent to which petroleum-based products figure in our everyday lives, including home heating and electricity, transportation, food, plastic products and packaging, clothing, even toothpaste, lipstick and shampoo.

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Under Webster's increasingly stringent demands-his wife complains they are "living under a dictatorship"-the family gives up their car for public transportation, bans plastics from the household, and switches to "green" alternatives whenever possible. While RECIPES FOR DISASTER show us how their lives change, archival footage of consumer society from the 1960s provides an ironic contrast to their sacrifices, and on-screen text and charts detail environmental statistics about our individual contributions to greenhouse gases.

At the end of the year, having survived an emotionally fraught experience that tested their values, the family members discuss the surprising statistical results. Although they learn that people can overcome almost any problem, even a deep-seated, systemic problem such as our dependence on oil, they realize that first we must overcome ourselves. The recipes for environmental disaster reside in mankind's psychological denial, persistence of error and rationalization of bad behavior.

“Engrossing and often amusing... The film not only investigates how our daily routine affects global warming, it also paints a candid portrait of an exceptional family dynamic.” —Eye

“At turns funny and insightful, this is a fresh take on ecological problems, solutions, and individual responsibility.” —Candace Smith, Booklist Online

"An original form among ecological documentaries... excellent... this adventure speaks to each of us!"—DOX Magazine


63 minutes / color
Release: 2008
Sale: $348

Subject areas:
Carbon Footprint, Consumerism, Ecology, Energy, Environment, Family Relations, Global Warming, Oil vs. Renewables, Social Movements, Sustainability

Related Links:

Related Titles:
Dreaming of a Tree House: An exploration of the design and philosophy behind a 20 year-old experimental, ecological collective housing project in the center of Berlin.

Earth Keepers: A global quest to meet key visionaries working on innovative approaches to building an environmentally sustainable future.

Post-Carbon Futures: The world will have to survive without fossil fuels - sooner, rather than later. What are the alternatives?

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Last Updated March 11, 2016
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