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Coal Cars on the Tracks: Carbon in the Sky

Two arresting images from the screening of The Wisdom to Survive, our film on climate change, which screened in  downtown Reading, PA, October 13:

As my host and old friend, Blair Seitz, and I passed under a trestle, on an outing that morning, we saw dozens of fully loaded coal cars standing above us on the railroad tracks. And, although they were nearly hidden against the black of the night sky, we saw them again that evening on our way to the theater.

What were they doing parked there? Where had they come from? Where were they going? We had no idea, but we wondered—how many more thousands of tons of carbon will be dumped into the sky when that coal is burnt?

Audience at the Reading Movies 11 Theatre
The audience in Reading, PA. Berks Peace Community sponsored the Oct. 13 screening. PHOTO: Courtesy Blair Seitz.

This is what we’re up against: very formidable, often anonymous—corporate power and control over the life and death of living systems: the plants and the animals, the mountains and the rivers, our grandchildren’s lungs. Those railroad cars were a challenging symbol to be sure, but more than that, seeing them there felt like a kick in the gut.

The other image was the moment I entered the auditorium and turned to go up the aisle and find a seat. The seats were full.

WISDOM TO SURVIVE Co-Director John Ankele. PHOTO: Courtesy Blair Seitz.
WISDOM TO SURVIVE Co-Director John Ankele. PHOTO: Courtesy Blair Seitz.

The theater was packed with local folks from Reading and beyond who came out on Columbus Day when they could have been at home watching football. And they stayed for an hour and half afterwards to share with the panel what is already being done, along with some powerful ideas for what can and should be done. Blue collar and white collar, artists and activists, faithful and secular—the local community awake to the problem and aware that time is short.

From where I was sitting down in front, their deep insight and their passionate commitment felt like power and truth manifesting together in one great wave that if it sweeps across America and beyond might save us yet.


Berks Peace Community hosted this screening. Since the 1950s, they have sponsored peace and social justice activities to reduce violence at the family, community, national, and international levels. To host your own community screening oWisdom to Survive, please contact us.