Former mayor, filmmaker discuss impact of fossil fuels

by Abby Land | Staff Writer
Published: Last Updated on
Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (left) and filmmaker Roger Sorkin (right) answer questions after the viewing of “The Burden” on Thursday, Nov. 3. Photo by Derek Walter

Former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (left) and filmmaker Roger Sorkin (right) answer questions after the viewing of “The Burden” on Thursday, Nov. 3. Photo by Derek Walter

The University of Indianapolis welcomed former Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and filmmaker Roger Sorkin to campus  Thursday,  Nov. 3, for a discussion of Sorkin’s documentary “The Burden: Fossil Fuel, the Military and National Security.” A screening of the film was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council Jesse Kharbanda. Ballard and Sorkin answered questions from the audience about the importance of alternative energy in Washington and the military.

Sorkin’s film said that it is, above all, a message of indignation about the number of troops deployed to protect American oil interests in the Middle East. According to the film, the United States’ reliance on petroleum to maintain a domestic lifestyle puts at risk the Army convoys charged with the duty of providing energy to tanks, automobiles and aircrafts.

The film states that 50 percent of all convoys have fuel-related mission, and an average of one casualty per convoy results from these dangerous missions. Additionally, the film shows footage of the Russian military claiming once-frozen Arctic territory as a base for operation, painting a portrait of the oil trade as not only an urgent social and economic issue, but also one of national security.

Ballard, a Marine veteran of the Gulf War, appears in the documentary multiple times, arguing on behalf of the lives lost protecting the oil trade and the long-term national security risks of continued reliance on oil. The moderator said Ballard made progress during his term in the field of energy efficiency in Indianapolis. He made clear his feelings about the injustice of jeopardizing American lives for an industry that the nation need not depend upon any longer.

“Make no mistake,” Ballard said, who views alternative energy as a method of keeping military lives out of danger,  “we are over there so that you can put gas in your car, and so our allies can do the same…. We [Americans] can change our behavior without changing our way of life.”

The film said the former mayor has been an outspoken proponent of energy efficiency and served as an integral figure in the establishment of charging stations throughout Indianapolis, encouraging the use of electric cars. During his service in the United States Marine Corp, Ballard became well-acquainted with the dependency of military operations on access to fuel. His devotion to the cause of alternative energy led him to collaborate with Sorkin, a filmmaker equally interested in the possibilities of “green fuel” as a method of protecting American troops and generating domestic growth environmentally and economically.

Sorkin, a graduate of Stanford University’s documentary film and video program, cited voting as a way for students to offer their support to the cause of alternative energy.

“In very general terms, just being engaged,” said the president of Sorkin Productions LLC. “It all comes back to this issue of civic involvement. I would encourage every university student to get involved.”

After the program, guests had the opportunity to share coffee and snacks while digesting the importance of the issue at hand. “The Burden” is the most recent of many University Series events offered at UIndy. The next event, a Showers Lecture by Kevin Radaker called “A Visit from C.S. Lewis” will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in Schwitzer Student Center.

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