Relocalization: Opting Out of Corporate Society

Diversidad: A Road Trip to Reconstruct Dinner

Solutionary Pictures (2010)

Film Review

Diversidad tells the story of a 35-day bicycle trip the Sierra Youth Coalition took from Vancouver to Tijuana in 2003. Their goal was to visit West Coast rural farming communities as a prelude to their participation in the 2003 anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico.

The goal of the fifth ministerial round of WTO negotiations was to resolve a dispute between developed and developing countries over agricultural trade. North American and Europe hoped to use the WTO to force developing countries to drop all trade barriers that were blocking US and EU agrobusinesses from dumping cheap food on agricultural nations. By 2003, NAFTA*, the precursor to the WTO, had allowed US agrobusiness to put two million Mexican farmers out of work by flooding their markets with cheap corn.

Building Alternatives to the Corporate Economy

The most surprising aspect of the cycle trip was the discovery of a vast network of rural communities and urban neighborhoods that are busily creating an alternative to the capitalist economic system by consciously decreasing consumption, changing consumption choices and building strong local economies

In Olympia, Washington, for example, they discover that Evergreen State College is training students in organic agriculture techniques, as well as new economic models, such as Community Supported Agriculture, to increase access to cheap, locally produced organic foods. In 2003 Thurston County (where Olympia is located) already held a national record as the country with the most CSAs.**

In Oakland, they stay with an African American group which had started a large organic garden in the Oakland ghetto. Likewise in Watts, they stay with the “Seed Lady,” an African American woman who got a scholarship to study organic farming in Cuba. After learning how to grow organic food in containers on concrete, as they do in Havana, she returned to engage her neighborhood in launching the Watts Garden Club.

This is in stark contrast to what the fifteen cyclists discover in Salinas, where they meet with Hispanic farm workers and and discover the corporate farms they work on have lost all their topsoil. Because the remaining soil has been destroyed through mismanagement, it no longer supports crop growth without heavy application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Cancun WTO Negotiations Collapse

Diversidad ends with dramatic footage of the anti-WTO protests in Cancun, attended by farmers from all over the world. The protest would attract global media attention after one of the Korean farmers mounted the heavy iron fence barricading the protest area and killed himself with a knife.

Buoyed by the ferocity of the protests outside, the third world WTO delegates refused to cave in, as they had in 1999. (See This is What Democracy Looks Like)

Why TPP Was Negotiated in Secret

By 2010 when Diversidad was released, the industrialized world had given up on the WTO as a vehicle for consolidating profits for their multinational corporations. However, unbeknownst to the filmmakers, Obama was already negotiating a new pro-corporate trade treaty called the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) to replace the WTO.

TPP negotiations were conducted in  secret to circumvent the massive popular opposition that repeatedly shut down WTO negotiations. However thanks to Wikileaks, which leaked portions of the secret TPP text over a period years, TPP is highly unlikely to be ratified owing to massive popular opposition to TPP in all 12 partner countries.*** (See Rock Against the TPP)


*The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America.

**Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution in which consumers advance purchase a share in a farmer’s crop and receive regular distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. (See Top 10 Reasons to Join a CSA)

***Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton officially oppose TPP.

 

Fighting Monsanto in India

Bullshit!

Pea Holmquist and Suzanne Kardalian (2005)

Film Review

Bullshit! is about Indian environmental activist Vendana Shiva. It takes its title from the “Bullshit Award” she received from a pro-Monsanto lobby group in 2004. Despite the intended insult (they sent the cow dung through the mail), Vendana was thrilled. Cow dung is revered in rural India, where it’s used as fuel and mixed with mud to construct water tight walls and flooring.

The film traces how Vendana abandoned nuclear physics in 1985 to start the Novdanya Institute, dedicated to reclaiming native plants and seeds as a commons for people to enjoy collectively – instead of a private commodity to increase the profits of multinational seed companies like Monsanto.

Novdanya runs a seed bank called The School of Nine Seeds. Its primary purpose is to preserve rare and heritage seeds that have been large replaced by a handful of hybrid monoculture crops. With growing water scarcity, Novdanya places special emphasis on drought resistant millets with a high protein content.

Another high priority for Vendana is her battle against Monsanto’s campaign to flood India, an early target starting in the late nineties, with GMO crops. Many Indian farmers have bankrupted themselves purchasing GMO seeds, particularly Roundup-ready varieties. When the high yields they were promised failed to eventuate, thousands committed suicide.*

Bullshit! also profiles Vendana’s role in the antiglobalization movement, particularly the anti-WTO protest in Cancun Mexico in September 2003. The public suicide of Korean farmer Lee Kyung-Hae was instrumental in galvanizing opposition from third world farmers against WTO provisions enabling the US to destroy local markets by dumping cheap agricultural products in third world countries.

In 2000 Vendana collaborated with Greenpeace to force the EU to revoke a patent they had granted Monsanto on the neem tree and an ancient variety of Indian wheat.

The film  ends by highlighting Shiva’s involvement, along with other high profile antiglobalization activists (including Canadian water activist Maude Barlow and French farmer Jose Bove) in a 640-day sit down strike to shut down a Coca Cola bottling plant that was illegal depleting a fresh water aquifer.


*According to New Dehli TV, close to 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995.
** The final breakdown of the so-called “Doha Round” of WTO negotiations in 2008 would eventually lead the US to promote the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and Transatlantic Trade and Partnership Initiative (TTPI) in its place.