Dr. Van Susteren is highly involved in the nexus of psychology and climate change.  Not only that, but she has connections to people in the film industry…Jack Black for one.

As of yet, I’ve been unable to connect, but some day hope to.  Here’s a letter I sent this past April:

Hello Lise & Happy Belated Earth Day!

I hope you, being a revved-up type, will agree to spend some of your precious time to hear me out, and possibly help me find someone to move my vision for a big picture, full-length feature film to fruition.  This film would be an expansion of the video you made with Jack Black, but based on a biologist’s life who is perversely driven to make a genuine difference like none before him.  Consequently, several of the biologist’s colleagues have dubbed him The Don Quixote of Fish Biologists.

I’ll make you a guarantee – if you do take the time, you won’t regret it…it might even result in a trip to a spectacular lodge in Alaska! (see attachment)

Not to sound hubristic, but I’m that biologist.  I’m a fish biologist currently living in Alaska, but have also worked in Wyoming and Idaho.

I just listened to the Sounds True podcast titled Emotional inflammation: A Condition of Our Time, although I’ve been following your work for some time.  In my opinion, the most important topic you discussed was the frenetic pace of life and the toll it takes on all of us…something I learned 30-years ago when dealing with endangered salmon of the Pacific Northwest.  Unfortunately, the pace of life and its complexities have only accelerated exponentially since then.  It’s my belief that the fast pace of life is the greatest threat to the future of mankind because it exacerbates the root causes of so many societal ills.

As a biologist, experience has shown me that if we’re going to effectively manage fisheries, make headway on the climate crisis, or hope to address the many facets of the all-encompassing meta-crisis…then psychology must play a big part.  Twenty-five years ago, at an international fisheries symposium, I noted how we biologists needed to recruit the help of not only psychologists – but psychiatrists like yourself.

Aldo Leopold recognized this seventy-five years ago when he expressed his frustration over, “the futility of trying to improve the face of the land without improving ourselves” in his final essay titled An Ecological Conscience.  I contend that the root causes of our environmental conundrums are the same for all social ills that have coalesced into the meta-crisis.

I firmly believe that we, as a species, are in need of a collective psychological rehabilitation.  In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck wrote: “Most of us are not so wise.  Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems…….The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.  Since most of us have this tendency to a greater or lesser degree, most of us are mentally ill to a greater or lesser degree, lacking complete mental health.”

Because mental illness would be a big part of this film I envision, I’d need a few hours to prove to people that I’m not delusional or batshit crazy…that a story based on my quirky and convoluted life (one that has included depression), if told correctly by exceedingly talented people, might help be the necessary agent of change for a collective psychological reset regarding our vexing human condition.  That reset, however, must start at the individual level.

The setting for this film would not be an oceanside beach with coconut trees, but a campfire beside a remote Alaska stream teeming with salmon where the biologist/protagonist explains, through flashbacks and discussions regarding contemporary conundrums, why his personal story can touch the hearts and minds of the average person struggling with emotional inflammation…which, as you know is darn near everyone.

One arc would involve our biologist eventually coping with solastalgia and the realities of life in our ever-increasing troubled world.  The take-home message, or elixir, will be this Joseph Campbell quote: “We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.  In doing that you save the world.”

Here’s the link for a video I made that I hope piques your interest, but only scratches the surface regarding the depression and the emotional inflammation I experienced over environmental concerns such as the loss of the salmon in Idaho from 27-years ago.  But, it doesn’t describe a severely traumatizing period that led up to that depression, something that would spawn the film’s primary arc.

Early in my career, I had a Forest Service supervisor/tormentor psychologically abuse me in the form of relentless gaslighting that lasted six years; three of those while going back to college to better myself in search of meaning in my life during a personal existential crisis.  Being somewhat naïve, I had hoped that by becoming a fish biologist and “saving” the fishes I cared so much about would bring meaning to my empty life.  Considering the ever-increasing threats to the environment, particularly on aquatic resources…I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The primary arc would be that our protagonist, who was once told he wasn’t professional material and ridiculed for stating that he was a big picture person, makes a bigger difference than Rachel Carson did with her seminal book Silent Spring.  It’s only when the protagonist conveys a uniquely powerful message through the film he envisions will he find the meaning he’s been searching for for several decades.

Nor, does the video mention how humor can be intermixed throughout this film, for Oscar Wilde said, “If you’re going to tell people the truth, make them laugh…otherwise, they’ll kill you.”  Besides being a biologist, I’m also the school bus driver for the Aniak Halfbreeds; one of countless examples of how my quirky life provides some unique insights into the human condition.

After trying unsuccessfully to entice several Hollywood insiders to support this vision, I’ve learned that that’s not the right venue…at least not initially.  Here’s what one successful screenwriter said:  There’s an old Hollywood adage linked to one of the early movie moguls Samuel Goldwyn. Frustrated by his screenwriters (most of them socialists or communists) constantly shaping mainstream movies to have some sort of political message to them, he is said to have yelled at them, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union!” [referring to telegrams] 

That’s pretty much been the attitude of the film business for decades. They do entertainment. Almost without exception, whatever “message” a movie conveys is secondary to the entertainment aspect of the story, at least that’s the attitude of The Suits.

That tough sell is exactly what the plot of the film I envision entails – the relentless quest of an unknown and unassuming biologist to convince someone that his personal story, if told correctly, might get the most powerful message out that mankind will ever hear.

I’m hoping that you will forward this on to folks with The Years Project and/or a passionate environmentalist like Tom Steyer.

In the video noted above, you’re going to hear a photojournalist acquaintance say, “If you can’t condense everything I’ve been hearing down to one page…then it’s not focused enough….then you have no story.” Well, I’ve done my best to condense this vision of mine down…but, the best I could do was 2 1/2 pages due to the complexity involved.  I’m sure if anyone understands the complexity of psychology and how it fits in to our mounting ecological and other societal quandaries, it would be a psychiatrist.

If you, the folks at The Years Project, and/or Tom Steyer, would be interested in helping move this vision forward, there’s an opportunity to gather this fall at a lodge here in Alaska.  Here’s a correspondence with the owner of the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge: Dave—thanks for the reply. Yes, film making is of interest to many closely involved with the lodge so if we can find a time to gather, would love to host a small group for discussion and planning purposes.  The first two weeks of June and between Sept 18-25 are usually good times when we’re not too busy, where a group could fly in from Soldotna and get a lay of the land feel, and exchange ideas.  We could offer a good discount for that also. 


Dave Cannon

Aniak, Alaska

(907) 676-0012