George Pakenham

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In 2005 George Pakenham, intrepid adventurer, banker, and citizen-activist took yet another first, personal step and began a journey which continues to this day.   Around the time that his brother (a non-smoker) was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, George discovered a little known, rarely enforced 1971 NYC law which limits gasoline engine idling to three minutes.    Determined to reduce air pollution in his neighborhood George began a campaign to change the city’s lax enforcement efforts and combat global climate change in the process.

For the next five years George Pakenham  patrolled the streets of New York City, politely engaging more than 3,000 motorists to explain the negative impact of engine idling and — the accompanying minimum $115.00 fine.

New York is a city of more than 1 million exhaust emitting  automobiles; 13,000 taxis and 6,000 buses.  The pollution is enough to make 8 million New York residents and 5 million day–time commuters ill and darken the atmosphere over NYC with an aerosol haze of chemicals and particulate matter.
Pakenham ultimately created an excel sheet to record each motorist interaction, their verbal response, and the refusal or compliance of the driver to turn off the engine.

Determined to expose the environmental and health  dangers that idling poses, George took the issue all the way to city hall, where he lobbied successfully for  the enforcement of the no idling law.  Pakenham’s five years of intense research, first hand interactions, documentation, filming and editing are chronicled in his documentary Idle Threat.

The movie had its world premiere at the celebrated Woodstock film festival in upstate New York in the fall of 2012.  It has also been screened at the Environmental film Festival in Washington D.C., and at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in California.   With the support of the Heinz Foundation,  idle threat was also shown at the Three Rivers film festival in 2014.   Idle Threat has also aired numerous times on public television, including KCET Los Angeles.

Featuring Click & Clack from NPR’s car talk and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Idle Threat is the story of one man’s mission to make his city a healthier place.

Join us in collecting and posting images and videos (3 minutes, 15 seconds, show road signs/distinguishing landmarks/and condensation from exhaust pipe) of idlers!  Click on the image below to purchase a Time-Date-GPS stamp for both still and video: