Filmmaker on biocultural evolution of fairness
Though he grew up near Washington D.C., Alan has spent most of his professional career in the Pacific Northwest, beginning in the production department of KING-TV as a photographer and editor for regular programming and public affairs documentaries.
After KING he worked as a freelance filmmaker and independent producer. He begin to produce environmental documentaries focused on the issues affecting the Pacific Northwest — primarily forests, salmon, and water.
His first major environmental documentary was Critical Habitat, a comprehensive investigation of the scientific, economic, and political issues underlying the conflict over the northern spotted owl. Critical Habitat won several awards, and aired on public television stations nationwide. Educational versions have been distributed to schools internationally.
He continued his focus on forest, salmon and water issues, and in 1996 produced the documentary Torrents of Change, which played a role in a series of events that led to the protection of 55 million acres of public land.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he worked in corporate video, mostly in the supercomputer industry with clients such as Cray.
He continued to work on environmental issues as well. As digital information technology became ever more sophisticated, he began thinking about a different approach to addressing these issues, in content as well as distribution.
To communicate these issues in a more effective way, he began researching what he considers to be the topic that underlies environmental decline, and for that matter, nearly all human conflicts — differing perspectives on fairness. He was particularly interested in understanding the evolutionary underpinnings of the human sense of fairness, and this led to producing two multimedia stories, the Evolution of Unfairness, and Are We Born with a Sense of Fairness? both originally published in Pacific Standard magazine.
In the course of his research on fairness he discovered the work of Elinor Ostrom, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, for development of the design principles for common-pool resource groups.
In 2013 Alan Honick was contacted by the Evolution Institute. They had republished his multimedia stories in their magazine, This View of Life. They invited him to attend the initial planning session for a project that would come to be known as PROSOCIAL, a method of implementing a generalized version of Ostrom’s design principles for any human group. He produced an introductory video, helped develop the methods and approach, and was the project’s coordinator through the end of 2017.
In 2014, an opportunity arose to combine his interests in fairness and environmental issues. The Siuslaw National Forest, the subject of his 1996 film Torrents of Change, had gone through a transformation over the previous 18 years. It exemplified how solutions to environmental conflicts can be achieved through a dedication to fairness, when everyone is willing to sit down and talk. The result was Seeing the Forest, his most recent documentary film.
He is currently developing a feature documentary film and social media series that applies a commons and design principle approach to the issues of preserving and restoring ecosystems throughout the basin of the Salish Sea.