Roger Sorkin is aiming for his new documentary, The Burden to take a place beside The Inconvenient Truth as a harbinger of a new epoch in American popular history. Instead of images of polar bears struggling to stay afloat in a melting Arctic Ocean, The Burden juxtaposes images of US military casualties amidst the smoking ruins of fuel trucks with footage of senior DOD officials speaking about strategic role of renewable energy. At the movie’s center, combat soldiers speak about the personal toll of those supply line attacks. “In a three month span, I buried two guys,” says Iraq war veteran Jon Gensler during the film’s first minutes. “Every time I squeeze the gas pump, I’d think about them.”
The Burden makes a powerful, gut-level connection between renewable energy solutions and the US defense effort. The central theme is simple and clear: oil dependence threatens national security, and renewable energy is a tool for military strategy. Unlike Inconvenient Truth, The Burden does not build a new message for the public, but instead shows us why soldiers and veterans are already driving renewable energy. It shows how former Marine Greg Ballard, Mayor of Indianapolis, is converting his city to zero emissions and how Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn sees the strategic impact of renewable energy. These aren’t environmentalists, and they’re not business people, these are soldiers from the front lines. A dry story of innovation and the next frontier for technology would not have gained the kind of high profile support in Congress and within the military if it hadn’t tapped into this emotional, deeply resonant message.
To my mind, The Burden challenges those of us seeking out drivers for water tech to find another high-powered, gut-level message about the value of water tech innovation. Historically, war has been inextricably connected to energy. Going forward, 21st century warfare will be inextricably linked to water.