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Director / CrewWe are Jeff Orlowski and Zack Rago from the new documentary CHASING CORAL, here to answer all your questions about coral reefs, climate change, and what you can do to help – ask us anything!

Jul 21st 2017 by jefforlowski • 19 Questions • 93 Points

Hi, I’m Robb Ryerse. I am running for Congress because I believe that the people of Arkansas's 3rd Congressional District deserve an independent voice in Washington. I will put the needs of people ahead of the desires of the party establishment, corporate lobbyists, and special interest donors. I also want to help restore the Republican party to its historic values.

My wife and I are both ordained ministers, and together, we co-pastor the Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville, Arkansas, or, as I like to call it: “America’s best kept secret.” We follow in the footsteps of Jesus, doing good works, and opening our arms to differences of opinions. Vintage Fellowship, at its core, is all about care -- care for those less fortunate, care for our community, care for our neighbors, care for our family and care for our planet. Since its inception, our goal has been clear: we welcome all people. LGBT and folks from all backgrounds, creeds and colors. Even skeptics are encouraged to join us. We recently joined a group called OPEN, which is an alliance of progressive-leaning churches that embrace our view of Christianity. We are committed to lending a hand to anyone who needs it including aiding the resettlement of refugees in our district, something our current congressmen tried to shut down.

You may have seen me on Fox News recently. Honestly, we expected it to be pretty rough -- but it ended up being an incredibly positive experience. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received afterwards from Republicans across the country who were disgusted by the state of politics today.

Check out my website here: Robb2018

This campaign is 100% people-powered. I don’t accept a cent of corporate donations or PAC money -- only individual small donors. If you want to help, you can donate here: Donation Page

Connect with me on social media: Facebook & Twitter

If you're interested in learning more about Brand New Congress, come join us at /r/BrandNewCongress.

PROOF!

Lastly, I want to mention the Summer for Progress. Brand New Congress has teamed up with 19 other progressive organizations to support 8 progressive bills. If you want to join the movement, please sign our petition!

I'll start answering questions at 2 PM CST / 3 PM EST. AMA!

Q:

Check out the Gates Labs!

A:

As someone who has never been there, I am genuinely curious as to how your political views align with those of the voters in your district. I can't help but think that a great many folks in a district that went 62 - 31 for Trump may not necessarily agree with many of your more progressive social stances. What is your plan to carry the vote while also appealing to voters with more traditional, socially conservative views?


Q:

Yes, I just briefly hit upon this question up above... possible, yes. Easy, no. But definitely worth us doing.

A:

You're right, the President won my district pretty handily. I think that is evidence of the fact that people are sick and tired of carrier politicians who put the desires of the party establishment and corporate donors ahead of the needs of everyday people. My campaign is about being a representative voice for AR-3 because people are more important than party. I think that message appeals to a lot of folks, regardless of their party affiliation or who they voted for in 2016.


Q:

Being 16, you and your peers have the opportunity of a lifetime. Your generation will be turning us in the right direction. I think it is normal to feel conflicted. I am only 24, not that far off from you, and i feel conflicted soemtimes as well. But our generation is basically being asked to clean up after a party we were not invited too and while we will be doing some cleaning we also need to throw a better party!

A:

Thank you for your response, Mr. Ryerse.

As someone who genuinely believes that it is more important now than ever for people of different political threads to come together, if not for common causes than for common civility, it's refreshing to know someone like you is entering the fray, even if your views don't necessarily align completely with mine.

Good luck to you, sir.


Q:

You should definitely host a screening!! Host many! Get a bunch of friends to come to the first one. You don't have to talk about how "important" it is, but you can talk about other parts of the project... the cinematography, the technology, the human characters, the magic of the ocean... And then after they come to the first one, get them to help you bring people to a second screening. And a third. And many many more after that!

A:

Thanks for your kind words. We don't all have to agree. But we do need to get along!


Q:

For someone passionate about ocean life and interested in going into film/documentary work, what are some important steps to get to the point where I can make a difference like you all have? (Love the film btw. I've seen it 3 times already!)

A:

I live in the district, I'd say good his views are pretty consistent with the local mix of well-meaning, conservative, southern Christians and very liberal, free-thinker types.

edit: autocorrect


Q:

omg, that's amazing!!! thank you so much!!!

The biggest thing in my mind is that we need to make people aware of what's going on. I knew practically nothing about the ocean story before working on this project, and most people that we share the film with had no idea of what was going on to coral reefs. If this story can get out there, and people then see that coral reefs are disappearing because of climate change, then hopefully this can be the wake up call that the world needs to take action on this. So share the evidence with your community... you can go to chasingcoral.com and sign up to host screenings. We need to get the story wider and wider.

Separately, our website also has other things that you can do. If you're a filmmaker, go out there and make films!! Go find a story, maybe there's a big climate story in your own neighborhood, one that you can help reveal to get your local community to care.

A:

I think so too.


Q:

Its a tough question to answer. Obviously working the field that we do it is hard to think positively about the oil industry but we also must remember that nearly everything we use every day in some way has roots in oil. We can't just turn off the switch on fossil fuels today but what we can do is begin to frame the climate problem as an opportunity both economically and for increase in American jobs. In my mind oil companies should be the ones investing in the renewable sector because that will ensure the longevity of their wealth.

A:

As a southern Christian can you explain the current disconnect of the republican party to the actual teachings of Jesus? How can so many evangelicals support the republican party as it is today without appearing to endorse sin and evil deeds? How can you align with a party that seems to do the opposite of what Jesus taught?


Q:

To echo Zack's thoughts here, I think we need to figure out how fossil fuel companies can switch to being energy companies. We all want energy, obviously. But we don't need it to be coming from a dirty source that is wreaking havoc on the natural systems on the planet that we all depend on.

A:

We all have a tendency to stray from our core beliefs over time. So much of life is about finding and returning to what is most important to us. I can’t speak for all southern Christians just like I can’t speak for all Republicans, but I know in my life the teachings and the example of Jesus have become more and more important. I hate that my party is often known for policies and programs that seem to be in opposition to my understanding of what Jesus taught and the example he set.


Q:

Thank you so much! She will be super excited about your response!

A:

For federally backed student loans, (a) would you support forgiving all student loan interest, (b) eliminating compounding interest for student loans, and (c) instituting a 3% simple interest rate?


Q:

And take her out to the ocean!! Get her in the water!

A:

I'm not ready to endorse specifics today, but these all seem like reasonable ideas that should be on the table.


Q:

When did you diving and when did you notice the coral changing? Saw something similar on HBOs real sports.

A:

First, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for running. We need people on both sides of the aisle who are willing to reject corporate donations and do their best work for the American people. I'm a Democrat and while I may not agree with you on everything, I certainly respect you more than just about every corporate Democrat in office.

Environmental issues greatly affect people across the country, both in rural areas and urban ones. Having clean water and air are basic requirements for a safe and prosperous life. What is your view on climate change, and what do you believe needs to be done about it? Also, what would you do about corporations that pollute the environment and affect public safety?

Thanks for your time.


Q:

We started filming in 2013, and we covered coral reef regions all around the planet. We shot in Florida, Cuba, Bermuda, Bahamas, Hawaii, American Samoa, Salomon Island, Papua New Guinea, and a LOT in Australia. Most of the underwater footage was shot in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef.

A:

Climate change is a reality that has clearly been impacted by human beings. I think we need to focus on investing in a green energy economy that will be good for the environment and the job market. We also need to make sure that while we're rolling back unnecessary and burdensome regulations on small businesses, we don't lose the needed protections we have in place for the environment.

For me, the environment is an issue that is deeply informed by my faith. In my faith tradition, the story begins with God placing people on this planet to enjoy and steward it, not to rape and pillage it or consume and destroy it. It bothers me that so many other Christians seem to forget this.


Q:

HI Jeff and Zack. What broader impact does the deaths of coral reef have on the ecosystem? The trailer looks amazing!

A:

What historical figure do you style yourself after?


Q:

Coral reefs are the nursery of the ocean. It's estimated that about 25% of all fish life in the ocean spends part of its life cycle on a coral reef. It's hard to predict fully, but if we lose coral reefs, it will create a domino effect that will undoubtedly affect other major parts of the ocean.

A:

Not sure I'd say I style myself after him, but I am always moved by the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a German theologian and pastor who was one of the very few church leaders to speak out against the Nazis. He was arrested for being a part of a plot to assassinate Hitler and died in a concentration camp just a few days before it was liberated. A true hero.


Q:

I also watched it last night, and the "glowing" coral trying to protect itself was the most powerful image of the film, in my opinion. I never heard of that ability, like a last ditch effort at survival and a cry for help all at the same time. Amazing work, keep doing what you do.

A:

If a bill comes up that is not constitutionally sound but not voting for it may go against one of your personal principles as a Christian what will you do?

Edit to be specific:

Let's say x is legal per the Supreme Court. X is also seen by many Christians as a sin. Someone puts in a bill to block x, likely knowing it will be overturned through appeals but getting to look like they are doing something. Do you vote to block because of your religion or vote against because it's against the Constitution?


Q:

Right now we sorta need to be doing everything we possibly can to save coral reefs. They won't stay on this planet beyond 25-30 years without human intervention at this point. Scientists are working on all sorts of strategies -- including selective breeding for future ocean conditions -- as a last resort to save them. But there's little hope if we don't get climate change under control.

A:

The role of a Congressperson is to represent the people of their district, not impose their personal beliefs or morality on everyone else. I'm committed to being the independent voice the people of AR-3 need.


Q:

Is the great barrier reef really dead?

A:

Do you side with the republican party out of principle or political necessity? Please explain.


Q:

NO! It's not completely dead. But huge parts of it are dead, already. I'll let Zack handle this one in more detail.

A:

I am a lifelong Republican who decided that I would stay in my party and fight for needed change. Joe Scarborough recently made news for leaving the GOP. I totally understand his decision. But I want to work for progress within a party that's been co-opted. There are more independent-minded Republicans than we all realize. We can make a difference.


Q:

I believe the article you referring to was written as a satirical piece to get peoples attention. The southern portions of the GBR are quite beautiful and healthy. However, the GBR is likely in its worst state that it has been in human history. If we are able to step up and make some big changes in our lives the GBR can persist. If we cannot then the fear is that we will lose the GBR and it's ability to function as an ecosystem.

A:

What convinced you to move to Arkansas?


Q:

There have been a few articles that have come out recently that were calling the Great Barrier Reef "dead," and it's a real shame... They're just using shock and exaggeration to get your attention.

A:

We moved to Arkansas 12 years ago to start Vintage Fellowship. We came here because we wanted to be near a university and in a growing part of the country. What we've found is home. Northwest Arkansas is simply the best kept secret in America. It is so optimistic and innovative. We're never leaving.


Q:

What is the most shocking thing you learned when filming?

Edit; completely changed question

A:

What are the top 3 things you want to change in Washington right now, whether possible or not?


Q:

The biggest thing for me was learning that the oceans are absorbing 93% of the heat from climate change. The thermal capacity of water is a lot higher than that of air. And the heat is transferring to the ocean, and it has a huge huge impact on life in the ocean.

People often think about a few degrees of change in temperature--it doesn't sound like a lot. But instead of thinking about the thermostat in your house, you need to think about your own body temperature. If your body temperature went up a few degrees, you wouldn't be very happy. That's what's happening in the ocean, we're raising the temperature of the water, and all sorts of aquatic life can simply no longer survive the hot temperatures. And we're changing the conditions faster than nature can adapt, and that's the scary part.

A:
  1. Let's fix the healthcare crisis once and for all with Medicare For All.

  2. Let's get money out of politics so that our elected officials will actually serve the people who elect them rather than the corporate donors and lobbyists who own them.

  3. Let's make sure that all people, regardless of race, country of origin, gender identity, sexual orientation, background, wealth, etc. has equal access to liberty and opportunity.


Q:

Awesome Question!!

Corals are always adapting! this is the forefront of coral reef biology right now and a wealth of research is being done. We are actually at a point where we are even trying to assist the corals to have more mutations for thermal tolerance!

A:

Hey Robb. What's the biggest challenge you're facing as an independent Republican running with BNC in this race? What do you think is the best way to get over that challenge?


Q:

Yes! This is what some scientists are looking into right now. Can we selectively breed them to tolerate both higher temperatures, but also higher ocean acidity too. The challenge here is that we then need to replant all of those corals, which is no small feat. But Dr. Ruth Gates, one of the featured scientists in Chasing Coral, is on the cutting edge of this very research you're asking about.

A:

Hey Sarah! Everyone should check out https://brandnewcongress.org/Candidates/sarah-smith. She's will make a great representative of the people of Washington state.

The biggest challenge for me is fundraising in the face of a well-supported incumbent. Congressman Womack is bought and paid for by his corporate donors. Our campaign is people-powered, as yours is. We're not accepting special interest or corporate money, which means we've got to rely on the support of everyday of Americans.

That's the challenge - but the benefit is so important - when we're elected, we'll be beholden to serve the people who supported us, not corporate lobbyists. And that will make all the difference!

Vote Sarah Smith in Washington 9!


Q:

Hi Congratuwelldone on the film! Can I ask, what was it like making a documentary?

A:

Are you willing to seize the means of production and lead an revolutionary movement to remove the bourgeoisie?


Q:

Thanks so much!!

Documentaries are a beast!! You're following a story for years and years, waiting to see where the story goes and what comes of it. So it's definitely a big challenge.

There are documentaries that are about stories that have happened in the past, and those are challenging for other reasons, but I'm looking forward to doing a project like that in the future, where you know how the story ends before you start making the film!!

A:

I'm more of a "love your enemies" kind of guy.


Q:

Mr. Orlowski, do you have any directorial advice?

A:

What is your stance on abortion? Are you pro-life and antiabortion?


Q:

It really depends on where you're at or what type of filmmaking you're hoping to get into, but the single biggest thing is to just MAKE STUFF!! Make films, make many films, make more and more and more. Share them with people, be open to critical feedback, and keep making stuff. You'll get better and better with time.

There's a really inspirational piece from Ira Glass about storytelling and making art, I'd definitely recommend you watch this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2wLP0izeJE

A:

I am prolife, but I think the best way to reduce the number of abortions is through access to healthcare and education. I think the focus of the prolife movement ought to be more focused on these things that have actually worked at reducing abortions rather than overturning Roe.


Q:

Do you think the additional absorption of C into the oceans and resulting ocean acidification is also having an effect on the corals? If so, what kind of impact relative to the impact the temperature increases are having?

A:

What's it like being the father of a two year old, and a college student, and running for office -- all simultaneously?


Q:

Scientists are definitely concerned about how ocean acidification will affect coral reefs and other ecosystems as well. We're already seeing it start to take place, particularly with oyster farming in parts of the United States and elsewhere.

We chose to focus this film on the coral bleaching story, focusing on temperature, because it's the more immediate threat, and because it's so visual. Ocean acidification is really hard to get people to understand, it's difficult to visualize. On top of that, rising temperatures will likely wipe out coral reefs before acidification even affects them greatly.

A:

Plus, I co-pastor our church and work a full-time job.

Honestly? I don't watch nearly as much Netflix as I used to. That, and I'm tired a lot. But I can't imagine doing anything else right now.


Q:

Ocean acidification is just another consequence of our impacts. The heat is certainly the biggest threat today but down the road this decrease in pH can be devastating. In fact, most of the mass extinctions on this planet have been affiliated with OA, particularly the largest at the end of the Permian.

A:

Hello Mr. Ryerse, What legislation would you support in regard to campaign finance reform? Would you like to see federal disclosure legislation, new Supreme Court decisions, or a Constitutional Amendment? Also, would you support legislation at the State level in regard to this issue?


Q:

And that might sound daunting, but that's actually something that gives me huge hope. We're seeing a huge shift--hundreds of cities have pledged to be powered by clean energy, just in the last few months! We can make this change, it's already happening and it's unstoppable. We need to get our local cities to care, to prioritize this, and to take action. If your city hasn't pledged to be 100% clean, then there's huge work you can do in your own community!!! You can be the change!

A:

We need to get the corrupting influence of money out of politics. So many other issues will never be able to be addressed until this one is because of the power of corporate donors.

I'm not taking PAC money or corporate donations. I think that's the way it ought to be so that our elected officials end up serving the people rather than their corporate donors.

Yes, I would support states addressing this issue, but I also think it will require a federal solution - probably coming from the courts since our legislators are bought and paid for by their corporate donors.


Q:

We have screenings all over the world and sometimes we are in attendance and love to meet and talk with people. If you were by chance in Park City, Utah tonight, we are screening the film for the Sundance Summer Series and i'd love to chat after the film!

A:

How does your wife feel about you running for Congress? How did you two meet?


Q:

We tend to go to a lot of film festivals and screenings, but that has now just started to slow down a little bit now that the film is streaming on Netflix. But keep an eye on the screenings list on chasingcoral.com, we'll be posting the public screenings there, and we'll flag when somebody from our team will be in attendance.

A:

We met in college in PA. Our 21st anniversary is right around the corner. She's my whole life.

And ... all of this was her idea. She first learned of Brand New Congress and introduced me to it. If she weren't 100% in, I wouldn't be doing this.


Q:

To what extent were you influenced by the late Rob Stewart's movie 'Revolution,' which is where I first heard about the effect of warming on ocean acidification and coral reefs?

http://therevolutionmovie.com/

A:

Where do you get your news?

How will u resist blindly falling for the often unverified claims of the establishment (Iraq has WMDs and the like)?

Do you support getting rid of voting machines?

What do you think of Ranked Choice Voting?


Q:

Rob was a friend, and his diving accident was such a huge tragic loss to the whole community.

To be honest, I haven't seen Revolution yet. I saw Sharkwater and was a huge fan of what he did there. But Revolution is high on my list.

A:

I think one of the biggest problems in our current system is that so many people stay within their own echo chamber. So, I intentionally read Drudge, FoxNews, HuffPost, and CNN everyday. I also get a lot of my news on Twitter.

Since my campaign is about People>Party, my loyalty will be to my voters not the establishment. Not to mention ... I'm a naturally skeptical person.

Not sure on the voting machines. I get that we're worried about hacking and interference, but I tend to be someone who wants to see us moving forward with innovation and technology.

I think Ranked Choice Voting is a really interesting idea that needs to be studied. I'm not opposed to it.


Q:

Not sure on the voting machines. I get that we're worried about hacking and interference, but I tend to be someone who wants to see us moving forward with innovation and technology.

I recommend watching the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy"

A:

I'll check it out. Thanks.