Indigenous Activists Fight Climate Change

Immunto (Change)

Island Reach Foundation (2020)

Film Review

This is a documentary about indigenous activism against climate change and growing collaboration between Third and First World activists to minimize and mitigate catastrophic climate change.

The indigenous communities featured are from Vanuatu, Morocco, Uganda, and Vietnam.

Owing to rising sea levels and a loss of protective coral reefs, the islands of Vanuatu are facing flooding of coastal homes and loss of crops due to salinization* of their soils. They also face more frequent and devastating tropical storms. Their climate activists are working to regenerate their reefs via a process known as “coral gardening.” They are also replanting forests and trying to strengthen ties with first world activists.

Morocco and Uganda are experiencing increased desertification due to decreased rainfall. In Morocco, activists are trying a new technology called “fog harvesting.” They use finely woven nets to trap rainwater, which they collect and pipe to local villagers.

Vietnam is experiencing record heatwaves, droughts, and floods, in addition to salinization of their ground water.

Climate activists there have launched a campaign against international banks seeking to fund a new Vietnamese coal plant.

The film also looks at successful climate action campaigns undertaken by Scottish XR members (eg when they occupied the Scottish parliament to hold their own citizens assembly) and climate activists at Standing Rock and in Boston and various Dutch cities.

The filmmakers finish by highlighting an international campaign to pressure the UN to declare ecocide** an international crime subject to International Criminal Court jurisdiction.


*Soil salinization (salinisation) refers to increasing salt concentrations in soil. It’s most often caused seawater contamination (due to rising sea levels).

**Ecocide is criminalized human activity that violates the principles of environmental justice, such as causing extensive damage or destroying ecosystems or harming the health and well-being of a species.

The Murky Science of Predicting Rising Sea Levels

Rising Sea Levels

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary focuses on the murky science of predicting sea level rise. As well as visiting cities already facing flooding and storm surges from rising sea levels, the filmmakers examine preparations several major coastal cities are making to cope with increased flooding.

According to filmmakers, there was no effort to measure sea levels prior to the 17th century. A tide gauge in Turing Germany which has been continually measuring sea levels since the late 1700s reveals they rose at an average of one millimeter per year until the 1960s. Since then average global sea levels have risen by three millimeters per year, a total of 180 millimeters.

Apparently sea levels don’t rise at equal rates in different regions (due to variance in ocean currents, prevailing winds and tectonic plate movements). Sea levels are rising by one centimeter (10 millimeters) per year in Sweden, 20 centimeters per year in Indonesia, and roughly six millimeters a year in New York City.

As the frequency of catastrophic storms and flooding increases, planners in coastal towns and cities must make the difficult decision whether to relocate residents inland or build permanent flood defenses. In most cases, it comes down to a community’s financial resources. Poor communities are generally forced to relocate.

For example, Indonesian leaders are making plans to move the entire capitol Jakarta to higher ground. New York City is building flood defenses to protect lower Manhattan and Wall Street, but residents of Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, and the Bronx will be forced to relocate. The German constitution commits the government to protecting the coastal integrity of the entire country, and leaders are planning to construct a network of dykes.

Current sea level rises stem from the gradual melting of Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets as the planet slowly warms. The melting of both ice sheets is predicted to result in a total average sea level rise of 66 meters.

 

 

Climate Justice: The Global Movement

Tomorrow’s Power

Directed by Amy Miller (2016)

Film Review

This documentary compares local climate justice movements in Gaza, Arauca (Colombia), and Germany’s Rhineland.

Gaza

In Gaza a consortium of doctors are working with the UN Development Fund to procure solar panels and batteries for the Gaza City Hospital. The Gaza strip has experienced repeated power outages ever since Israel bombed their power plant in 2010. Owing to the blockade on their borders with Israel and Egypt, engineers have been unable to repair the damaged turbines. With only two working turbines, Gaza residents get an average of four hours of electricity for each ten hours of outage.

Because the solar operation is insufficient to supply the entire hospital, the solar feed is used for operating theaters and intensive care, neonatal intensive care and dialysis units. Even brief outages in any of these critical facilities can cost patient lives.

Araucua

The climate justice movement in Arauca (on the Colombia-Venezuela border) is a compesino movement focused on preventing multinational oil companies from illegally evicting indigenous and Afro-Caribbean farmers from their land. I found it intriguing to learn the true purpose of the US government’s notorious Plan Colombia. Despite the spin fed to the American public (ie about Plan Colombia shutting down Colombian coca production), its true purpose was to assist the Colombian military (and paramilitary forces) in seizing, torturing, and murdering human rights activists. It was actually the campesino movement that shut down coca production in Arauco between 2007-2011.

In addition to organizing protests and direct actions, Colombia’s climate justice movement has organized large local food coops to support their local economy and to resist schemes by multinationals to rip off their cacao crop and sell it back to them as chocolate.

Their movement  has become so large and powerful that the Colombian military has ceased trying to evict them from their lands.

Rhineland

Germany’s climate just movement is focused on shutting down coal mining and coal-fueled power plants. Coal powered plants largely replaced the nuclear industry after activists forced the German government shut it down after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Time to Choose

Time to Choose

Directed by Charles Ferguson (2015)

Film Review

The appraisal of the renewables market is clearly out-of date in this 2015 film. Nevertheless  it contains excellent new material on mountaintop removal (for coal) and coal mining and pollution in China; the growing rollout of rooftop solar in the Third World (as of 2015, 70% of Bangladeshi residents still lacked access to electricity); and the disastrous replacement of Indonesia’s tropical forests with palm oil plantations.

As of 2015, 70% of the world’s carbon emission come from burning fossil fuels and 30% from destroying the world’s forests for agriculture.

The filmmakers link Brazil’s ongoing destruction of the Amazon to the country’s growing export of soy to Chinese pig farms. The country’s massive rainforest destruction has significantly reduced rain fall, leaving Sao Paulo’s 20 million residents to confront chronic water shortages. Illegally driven from their land to create soy plantations that only benefit a handful of billionaires, many subsistence farmers are left with no way to support themselves.

Illegal destruction of Indonesia’s tropical rainforests for palm oil production also displaces many of the country’s subsistence farmers, as well as leading to the near-extinction of orangutan populations. Palm oil is the main ingredient in many processed foods.

Owing to the clear cutting and burning of their rainforests, Indonesia currently has the third highest level of CO2 pollution after China and the US.

The main premise of this film is that we already have all the necessary technology to end rainforest destruction and replace fossil fuels with cheaper and cleaner renewable energy. For decades, the main obstacle to environmental reform has been billionaire oligarchs blocking forest conservation and the roll-out of renewable energy technology.

Filmmakers also emphasize the contribution industrial agriculture plays in increasing carbon emissions. This relates to the abandonment of traditional farming practices that capture carbon in the soil. At present real food (ie non-processed foods produced by traditional farming methods) is referred to as “specialty crops.”

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

 

 

 

Is the Emphasis on “Green Technology” Misplaced?

Surviving Earth

Directed by Peter Charles Downey (2014)

Film Review

This Australian documentary on climate change, like Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans places heavy emphasis on “stabilizing” global population. The methods it advocates include free contraception for all women who need it and increased education about the benefits of family planning.

The film also dispels the myth that renewable energy (ie a well-integrated combination of concentrated solar thermal, wind, PV solar, and bioenergy) is too intermittent to cover periods of peak energy demand. Now that renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels, this is also the main argument fossil fuel lobbyists use against 100% conversion to renewables.

Downey also calls for a significant reduction in energy consumption by the industrial North – for two main reasons. The first relates to the extreme resource intensity required for some green technologies, such as electric vehicles (EVs). As of 2014, there were one billions cars globally. There isn’t enough lithium on the planet for one billion EV batteries, to say nothing of the massive fossil fuel expenditure involved in the manufacture of EVs.

His second argument relates to the declining energy return on investment (EROI) with renewables (and unconventional fossil fuel sources such as fracked gas and oil and tar sands). EROI is defined as the amount of energy you produce for each unit of energy you expending in mining and production. Modern EROIs have steadily declined since a high in 1900 of 100 units per each unit expended (for oil).

Current EROIs summarized below

  • Wind 1:25
  • Saudi oil 1:12
  • Fracked gas 1:10
  • Fracked oil 1:5
  • PV solar 1:5
  • Coal 1:5
  • Tar sands 1:2
  • Biofuel 1:1

According to Downey, a more realistic approach to reducing carbon emissions combines 1) intelligent urban design that moves services closer to residents homes, enabling them to meet most of their needs by bicycle or on foot and 2) free and convenient public transport for long trips.

He blames the steady decline in EROI for the failure of global growth to recover after the 2008 economic collapse. The Club of Rome’s 1973 Limits to Growth predicted economic growth would totally collapse around 2019-2020. A totally new phenomenon in civilized society, economic growth began around 1800 with intensive fossil fuel use. Growth will continue to decline as the EROI of available fuels declines. Eventually it will reach 1:1, and we will resume our reliance on human and animal muscle power.

Downey predicts the growing cost of energy (resulting from declining EROI) will drastically increase the cost of food – to the point local communities will again be forced to be food self-sufficient

 

Why Industrial Agriculture is Unsustainable

Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America

Directed by Ana Sofia Joanes (2009)

Film Review

This documentary examines why industrial agriculture is inevitably doomed to failure. After detailing numerous financial, environmental, and human health crises linked to factory farm systems, the filmmakers explore the growing family farm movement. The latter seeks, above all, to re-localize US food production. The issue of local food production is especially relevant in 2020 with the current breakdown (thanks to COVID19 lockdowns) in globalized industrial food production.

In addition to profiling various family farmers who have abandoned factory farming, the film features Michael Pollan (author of The Botany of Desire and the The Omnivore’s Dilemma); the 2009 president of the National Family Farm Coalition; the manager of an independent farmer-supported supermarket in Kansas City; and Will Allen, former pro basketball star and founder of Growing Power (a community-supported urban farm and training center in Milwaukee).

The film explodes a number of corporate myths about industrial agriculture. First and foremost is the claim that we can’t feed a global population of seven billion without factory farming. There are now three decades of yield research revealing that traditional multi-species farming methods (still practiced by 80% of the world) are far more productive (in calories per acre) than industrialized monoculture. As several farmers in the film reveal, traditional farming methods are also more financially sustainable. Farmers employing traditional methods spend far less on pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, and vet bills because their soils, plants, and animals are much healthier.*

The second major myth the film debunks is that factory farming lowers the cost of food by replacing human labor with technology. While Food Inc CEOs and shareholders pocket their profits, society as a a whole pays the cost of industrial agriculture with increased unemployment, environmental degradation, and health care costs. The latter stems from an epidemic of food contamination (with toxins and harmful pathogens) and chronic illness (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer).


*Two distinct effects are described: 1) The avoidance of herbicides and pesticides allows soil organisms essential for plant health to thrive and 2) Ruminant livestock thrive on the natural grasses their digestive systems evolved for, in contrast to the grains they are fed on factory farms.

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

https://pukeariki.kanopy.com/video/fresh

Rebuilding Communities Around Agriculture

How We Grow Communities: Rebuilding Ourselves Around Agriculture

Directed by Haley Thompson and Tomas Zaccarellow (2018)

Film Review

“Make Tomorrow You Take an Active Role in Your Food System”

This documentary concerns the growing movement to bring more young people into organic agriculture and permaculture. There is already growing inclination on the part of American young people to enter farming. I’m sure this relates in large part to high youth unemployment from the 2008 global financial crash. The average age of farmers in industrial agriculture is 58.

Focusing mainly on a small farming/tourist community in the Colorado Rockies, the film highlights a number of promising initiatives (being copied in other states) to expand the local food movement. These include programs to teach children about healthy soil and eating through school-based organic gardens; an Earth Keepers Day Camp; grassroots climate justice initiatives to facilitate rapid transition to renewable energy; lease options for young people who can’t afford their own land; partnerships between farmers and local chefs; and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) schemes in which local residents support farmers by subscribing to a share of their crops. By covering their operating and living expenses up front, the latter saves young farmers from incurring crippling levels of debt.

The most innovative program presented  is the national Slow Money Club. The latter enables baby boomers with savings to provide interest-free loans to newbie organic farmers. In 2018, the program issued $50 million in loans to 516 small farm enterprises.

The full film can be viewed free with your public library card on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of you library into your search engine.

 

The Vital Importance of Local Food Production

Feeding Ourselves

Directed by Lisa Safarik (2020)

Film Review

The breakdown of the US food supply chain under COVID19 once again highlights the danger of our globalized food system. Feeding Ourselves reminds us of the importance of local farmers and a strong local food network during periods of national and international crisis.

Cinematographically this has to be one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. For the most part, filmmakers focus on small farmers in British Columbia harvesting their crops, preparing them for market, and undertaking a multitude of tasks to naturally replenish their soils. Small free range meat producers also feature prominently, demonstrating humane and sustainable pastoral management, home kill, and butchery techniques. A few vignettes depict small local food processors, restauranteurs, and farmers markets that bring freshly grown organic products to local residents.

Several of the farmers interviewed predict the imminent collapse of industrial agriculture (so far the COVID19 lockdown and collapse of North American food chains tend to validate these predictions). They feel it’s essential to prepare by creating a strong local food infrastructure.

With youth unemployment levels remaining really high despite the so-called post-2008 recovery, no one is very surprised that so many young people are choosing a career (organic farming) consistent with their values rather than financial gain.

The film also points out the role of factory farming in externalizing the cost of pest control. Industrial farming employs toxic chemicals that generate immense health and environmental costs, owing to their link to cancer, chronic illness, and species extinction. In contrast organic farmers must pay the full cost of human labor required to eliminate pests.

The full film can be viewed free at https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/feeding-ourselves/

The Carbon Trading Racket

The Carbon Rush

Directed by Amy Miller (2012)

Film Review

This documentary is about the $300 billion carbon trading racket (aka the Emissions Trading Scheme) in which carbon polluters in industrialized countries buy permits to pollute from various corporate and and NGO scams that allegedly sequester carbon. Over 5,000 projects are registered with the UN carbon market initiated under the 1992 Kyoto Accord.

The filmmakers interview Third World residents and activists about the devastating effect of these schemes on their communities.

Brazil

Filmmakers visit several communities where multinational corporations have deprived subsistence farmers off their land to build giant eucalyptus plantations. The trees are harvested to make charcoal used to produce pig iron. Because the eucalyptus charcoal is ultimately burned (producing CO2), there is no net reduction in carbon emissions. Yet several dozen of these plantations scattered across the third world are authorized to sell carbon credits to First World polluters.

Delhi

One to two hundred thousand informal waste pickers essential to India’s recycling industry are losing their jobs to Refuse Driven Fuel (RDF) incinerators. The latter burn unsorted rubbish to produce electricity. Despite research showing that waste pickers are nine time more efficient than incinerators in reducing CO2 emissions, the multinationals running the incinerators are allowed to sell carbon credits for operating them. This despite fierce opposition by local residents due to the incinerators’ failure to filter toxic pollutants. There are several dozen RDFs selling carbon credits across the Third World.

Maharashta (India)

The Indian government has colluded with Tata Motors and various multinationals to force  subsistence farmers off their land to build a 1,000 turbine wind. The latter produces carbon credits to a Norwegian Mega Mall. Similar mega-turbine projects generate carbon credits across the global South.

Chiriqui (Panama)

The Panamanian government is collaborating with multinationals and the World Bank to illegally install 160 hydroelectric dams on indigenous land. Despite environmental devastation that has transformed thousands of hectares of land into desert, the corporations earn millions by selling carbon credits for building and operating the dams.

Aquan Valley (Honduras)

Following the 2009 coup,* the new right wing government allowed multinationals to clear cut old growth forest and displace subsistence farmers to build massive palm oil plantations for biofuel production. Despite clear evidence that replacing old growth forest and stable savanna with palm oil plantation increases, rather than decreases, CO2 emissions, a number of similar plantations throughout the the Third World are authorized to sell carbon credits.

The full film can be seen free at

https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the-carbon-rush-documentary/

The Delusion of Perpetual Economic Growth

Fairy Tales of Growth

Directed by Pierre Smith Khanna (2019

Film Review

This documentary is about the urgent need to abolish the mindset that measures human progress in terms of economic growth. It also emphasizes the price we pay for growth in terms of heavy resource extraction and even heavier human exploitation.

The filmmakers begin by referencing Limits of Growth, published by the elite round table group Club of Rome published in 1973. Relying on MIT computer modeling, it predicted unrestrained growth would lead to economic and ecological collapse in the early decades of the the the 21st century.

The film makes many of the same points as Michael Moore’s recent documentary Planet of the Humans (see The Corporatization of the Climate Movement). Both depict the notion of “Green Growth” as a corporate scam. Politicians and environmental NGOs who claim that a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy will allow unlimited economic growth without causing irreparable harm to the planet are either deluded or deliberately lying to you.

Both films films assert our only option, at this point, for preventing environmental collapse is  to significantly reduce consumption and to prioritize human welfare and the environment over the continual acquisition of more stuff.

The filmmakers cite an interesting study revealing that every new purchase gives people an average of 15 minutes of happiness. In fact, a growing number of psychologists and sociologists believe improve if we focus away from material possessions to to improve health care and education, spending more time with our families, and rebuild our communities.

For me, the high point of the documentary is the link it makes between our debt-based system of money creation and the pressure for ever increasing economic growth. Contrary to public belief, at present 97% is created, not by government, by by private banks when they issue loans. (See We Need to End Money Creation by Private Banks – Urgently)

Because money only comes into existence when someone borrows money, the only way to keep enough money circulating in the economy is to continually increase (both private and government) debt. The cost of repaying this exponentially increasing debt is a continual increase in resource extraction, environmental degradation and pollution, and exploitation.