Film screening spurs climate change debate

LEON SANTHAKUMAR/PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR Students had mixed reactions to the film screening held in Wolman.

Students had mixed reactions to the film screening held in Wolman.

For The News-Letter

Refuel Our Future hosted a screening of the documentary Merchants of Doubt in the Wolman theater last Thursday, Oct. 29.
Refuel Our Future advocates divestment from fossil fuel companies, requesting the Hopkins Board of Trustees to divest roughly $300,000 of the endowment from fossil fuels.

In the spring of 2015, the organization focused on promoting a faculty petition requesting divestment from the Board of Trustees. The petition has more than 50 signatures. Refuel our Future is now working on increasing its presence among the student body.

“We want people to know who we are, and get people talking about divestment,” acting president Nava Rastegar said.
Merchants of Doubt discusses how companies and politicians employ false experts to deny scientific fact and to sway public opinion.

This film compared the deceit of false experts to a magician’s trickery. Nina Krauss, a sophomore member of Refuel Our Future, commented that this was “an interesting aesthetic.”

Merchants of Doubt initially focused on tobacco companies that responded to research linking smoking to cancer and other health problems by paying “experts,” usually professionals in unrelated fields, to cast doubt on scientific findings.

The film exposed tobacco companies who lobbied for laws requiring flame retardants in furniture, thus avoiding blame for fires caused by slow burning cigarettes. The second half of the film exposed “experts” paid by politicians to debunk climate change. Clips of Republicans denying climate change elicited laughs from the audience.

Krauss was moved by the segment on former senator Bob Inglis, a Republican who overcame denial of climate change through climate change.

“The parts about people flipping sides were the most inspiring,” Krauss said. “It was heartening to see people realize that the data can’t be denied.”

Overall, the audience positively received both the documentary and the host organization. Lucie Loubaton, an exchange student who heard about the screening from friends, said that Refuel Our Future represented a “good initiative.”

Rastegar was disappointed by the turn-out.

“It’s not as many as I’d hoped,” Rastegar said. “But the screening for Hocus Pocus was also tonight.”

John McLaughlin, the organization’s director of student coordination, gave a brief presentation promoting Refuel Our Future and passed around a sign-up sheet for the club’s email list. He said there might be more screenings in the future.

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