Idle Threat
Idle Threat
Idle Threat
Item#: IDL-1032
Choose License:  Format: 

Running Time: 30 minutes
37 & 63 Minutes on one disc
Scene Selection • Closed Captioned
Grades 9 – Adult
A film by George Pakenham


"Highly recommended. An eye-opening documentary that draws attention to a common problem, and a solution, that few people even recognize. It also shows the link between individual actions and solving broader environmental and political problems such as energy dependence, environmental pollution, and public health challenges. Well-done and entertaining...."
-Educational Media Reviews Online

"In an engaging and informative approach to a serious environmental issue, Idle Threat tells the story of effective citizen engagement and impact."
– Holly Wise, Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability

"In the vein of Michael Moore’s cinéma vérité, Pakenham becomes our man on the street accosting idlers who pollute the streets of NYC with their vehicles’ exhaust. The film manages to make you realize the deadly dangers present at the same time it makes you laugh out loud.”
– Prof. Cathleen Miller, San Jose State University, author of Champion of Choice

“An entertaining and informative ride that shows how citizens who care can make a difference.”
– Marc Norman, Director of UPSTATE, Syracuse University School of Architecture

"Opens a conversation about the relationship between science and society.... For students it provides a case study in how they to could take science research to define a problem and then take action as a result. In a high school or college classroom the video would be a way to start the discussion with students about issues that have an impact on their community. This could be a springboard for them to research a problem and the impacts, and then develop a plan that they could implement to make change."
–NSTA Recommends




Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
Woodstock Film Festival
Greenpoint Film Festival
Three Rivers Film Festival
Wild and Scenic Film Festival
All prices include DVD and PPR

• K-12 Schools, Public Libraries & Community Groups: $79
• Colleges, Government, Businesses: $195
• Colleges, Government, Businesses (with DSL): $495

Idling engines consume more than 6 billion gallons of gasoline annually in the U.S., a significant but little-known contributor to local air pollution, respiratory disease and global climate change.

Idle Threat is a lively look at one man’s spirited struggle to improve public health by raising awareness about idling’s impact, starting in New York City. Against all odds, he succeeds, helping improve local air quality, and in the process gains world-wide recognition for the anti-idling cause, with articles featured in the Wall Street Journal, New Yorker magazine, and the Financial Times.

In white shirt and tie, Wall Street banker George Pakenham has walked the streets of New York for over five years, courteously confronting over 3,000 motorists to explain idling’s impact and the law prohibiting running a parked vehicle for more than a short time. Responses vary from thanks to anger, but Pakenham never wavers. He’s determined that the problems idling poses be recognized, and lobbies successfully for the city to enforce its idling laws.

Featuring Click and Clack from NPR’s Car Talk, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Idle Threat profiles one man’s challenging quest to make his city and the world a healthier place, and shows that sometimes one person – and a simple act like turning a key – can make a big difference.

Click for Idle Threat Study Guide and the Idle Threat 5-Year Study Results and Statistics.

Big Nose, Big City is the 36 page companion
children's book to the documentary film.
Learn More >