Dave Gardner — a Conversation Destined to Happen


It was a Peak Moment Conversation destined to be, and the angels must’ve worked overtime to bring it together.

It started last week when I “just happened” to see an email message for the filmmakers group on the Transitionus.ning website — a list I check maybe once a month if that. There was one message from someone videotaping a documentary who needed a place for two guys to stay overnight in San Francisco. I forwarded his request to friends there, and then transmitted to positive response to the filmmaker, Dave Gardner.

Dave replied with thanks, and to my surprise added:

“I’ve actually tried to email you a few times about this trip – was thinking you might be interested in interviewing me about this film project while I’m out there. Regardless of whether you’re interested or not, and whether you could even put the shoot together in our time-frame, I’d love to meet and visit if you have time.”

I checked out his website, growthbusters.org which had information about Dave’s documentary work-in-progress titled Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity. Dave had a superb in-depth review of Bill McKibben’s new book Eaarth (yes, that’s spelled right) and a video interview with McKibben. We were on the same page. I said yes, I’d like to tape a conversation.

Turns out Dave was coming from Portland and would be taping a quick few shots at Oroville dam — which is basically in our bigger backyard. Couldn’t be more perfect: no long drive and a new place to discover.

So on Wednesday Cinco de Mayo, Robyn and I arrived at the dam and met up with Dave and his colleague Jason, and quickly found a good location overlooking the reservoir. As Robyn and I started setup, I was horrified to realize I’d forgotten the second tripod for this two-camera shoot. But hey, this guest is a videographer (our first) and had a tripod we could use. Angel assistance number two.

Just as we neared the final stages of setup, a park ranger drove up. Officer Carlson stepped out, calm and polite, and asked what we were doing. Dave and I quickly explained about my interview of him, the documentary filmmaker. Officer Carlson nodded and then asked to see our Film Permit.

Film permit!? My jaw dropped. Never heard of it. Never needed one. Officer Carlson explained that any filming on public property required a permit.

Robyn paused from setup work, thinking it might be curtains. Dave and I answered Officer Carlson’s questions. No, this taping wasn’t for commercial purposes, we said. We don’t make money from Peak Moment shows, we don’t have advertising.

By now you can be sure my mind was racing to figure where we could tape and still try to fit into Dave’s very, very tight schedule that day.

“Are you media?” Officer Carlson asked, and explained that journalists (media) can tape without permits. Yes, our work is journalism. But then, “if you’re media, he asked, “Do you have a press pass?”

No, I didn’t have a press pass, but I whipped out my Peak Moment business card, while Dave explained that Peak Moment distribution was through the internet, not the normal media outlets, but was certainly journalism.

There must have been several angel wings flapping really hard about then, because somehow,  Officer Carlson seemed satisfied that our online video series qualified as media, and he let us proceed.

Taking a collective deep breath, we rapidly finished setup and began taping. I could see why we got some help from the Universe for this conversation. Dave is articulate, passionate, well-informed about the predicament we’re in, and the need to take action.

Dave’s a storyteller. He talked about the “looney” way we’re living as the limits to growth are staring us in the face. Economic growth. Urban growth. Over-consumption. Dave also fearlessly named population overshoot as a symptom of the limits, but admits to no easy answers.

Dave had just come from a De-Growth Conference in Vancouver, B.C., where it was noted that humanity is now using 130% of the planet’s resources. We’re borrowing from future generations. He wants a world worth living in for his kids and grandkids. And he isn’t expecting the entrenched political and corporate institutions to take effective action anytime soon: his trust is in local communities and local action.

Look forward to a fast-paced and engaging conversation that’ll give you a flavor for an upcoming non-profit documentary film that’s being “crowd-funded, crowd-produced and crowd-distributed” by a worldwide network of growthbusters supporters (more wanted, of course. Join him).

Watch Hooked on Growth – Meet the Filmmaker (episode 177).


  1. Mark, that would be great. Might be a real uphill battle though. How many times a day are the words “restore economic growth” uttered these days?

    I, too, appreciate the spirit and tone of your comments and the dialog here. Happy New Year! May your 2011 be one of more fulfillment and less of a lot of other things!

  2. Another thought.

    Wouldn’t our language be richer and more precise if we reserved the word “growth” for biological organisms and their development (learning, corresponding, interacting) and used the term “increase” for non-biological ones?

    Increase stocks.

    Increase and income mutual funds.

    An increase company.

    Just passing along a thought that flittered through the synapses a moment ago.

  3. Thanks Dave. A very considerate response.

    I have not see your film as yet, so I would be wholly unqualified to speak on its exposition of the subject. I do appreciate that you (or at least someone) is so painstakingly analyzing societal trajectory. We NEED a little introspection from time to time.

    Perhaps our difference here is semantic. I don’t know. I only know that growth is an integral part of nature and all of life. It’s my feeling that it is the mis-application of the concept that leads to the degradations that we both observe and which are the causes of our concerns.

    Thank you for allowing this discussion. I do plan to watch your film and I have no doubt that there will be much to learn from it.

  4. Mark, I appreciate your perspective and would like to explain my approach. My job as a filmmaker is to capture the public’s attention, get more than the choir into the theater to view the film, and get the pundits talking about the issues. Films that attract larger audiences have the elements of drama, and that includes conflict. So my approach is not designed to be diplomacy. It’s intent is to provoke discussion, even heated discussion in some circles.

    I could produce a warm, polite, peaceful film. But that would limit it’s audience and limit the discussion. I think there’s room in this movement for all types of conversation.

    Also, the GrowthBusters film is intended to raise awareness of the forces at work in our culture that tend to keep us on the unsustainable path. Awareness and understanding of these forces will take away much of their power. A lovely film focusing on all the good things going on in the great turning would be… well, lovely. But it would not raise awareness of the pro-growth Kool Aid still being served. That is what GrowthBusters will hopefully do.

    I hope this helps you understand what I’m doing. Your closing comment makes me wonder – why is it important to find growth you can promote? I know I am still struggling to recover completely from my own addiction to growth. Perhaps your effort to find some kind of growth to promote is a little residue from our culture’s heyday of growth.

    I would propose we support the things you mention, but to say we want to “grow” them preserves some of the language of that outdated culture and could confuse. I’d like us to just get “growth” out of our DNA and replace it with “enough.”

    Very glad to have people like you thinking about all this and weighing in!

    Dave Gardner
    Filmmaker & GrowthBuster

  5. Janaia –

    I’m dipping back into your archives a bit because this particular Peak Moment video has bothered me for some time.

    I really think the move back to common sense will be thwarted if we position it as one of “stopping growth.” I believe that I fully understand what Dave Gardner is saying here, and I agree with his intent, but “stopping growth” seems to endorse the very definition of growth that we need to release ourselves from.

    Plus, “stopping growth” is VERY easily misconstrued term that can easily cast the whole common sense movement into very negative and undesirable light.

    How about we define growth as the amount of time we spend with our family? Or as the time and resources we are able to commit to local artists and entertainers? Time spent building the environment? Or opportunities to host (or being hosted) by others. That is growth that I want to be a part of.

    No growth?

    Not for me.

    Mark Pearce

  6. Hi Stuart,
    You’ll be pleased to hear that Robyn is working on it now…However, it won’t get released for about a month. So, keep your pants on (tee hee). 🙂

  7. Stuart M. says:

    Wow! Janaia, all the action seems to be going on in your Journal! I’m still “holding my breath” waiting for the the Poo and Pee show! It’s fantastic to hear about all the shows in the pipeline, but when do we get to see/hear them? The suspence is killing me.

  8. Thanks for wonderfully documenting our adventure at Oroville, Janaia! Meeting up with you and Robyn was one of the highlights of our trip. I look forward to a long and rewarding friendship and collaboration. I’ve long been a fan of what you’re doing. Keep up the good work!

    Dave Gardner
    Hooked on Growth

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