How the Covid Lockdown Saved the Brithdir Mawr Cawd Ecovillage

Saving Our Ecovillage
 
Journeyman Pictures (2020)
 
Film Review
 
This documentary tells the fascinating story of a 25-year-old ecovillage in West Wales that was inadvertently saved from privatization by the UK Covid lockdown in March.
Working together over decades, the 17 residents of Brithdir Mawr Cawd have built a totally self sufficient of grid system through which they provide their own electricity, water and sewage disposal (based on composting toilets). Then in late 2019, when their 25-year lease* expired, the  the owner opted to sell the property instead of renewing it.
 
Faced with the challenge of raising $1 million to buy their own homes, they hired a business advisor to help them create a fundraising plan. Luck was with them. The UK-wide lockdown Boris Johnson ordered in March 2020 (which wreaked havoc on the British real estate market) granted them an automatic six months extension.
 
The business plan they created includes a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) scheme, through which they produce fruits and vegetables for the wider community, in  addition to a massive apple orchard that will produce apple juice, cider and vinegar and a U-pick strawberry and raspberry patch for local residents and tourists.
 
Faced with the continuing lockdown, the landowner has now agreed to give them six years to raise $1 million to buy the property.
 
In the film several Brithdir Mawr Cawd’s members speak candidly about their easons for joining and the advantages and disadvantages of living in a small close-knit community. Prior to Covid, the Welsh ecovillage hosted volunteers who traded their labor for training in off-grid living skills. Brithdir Mawr Cawd was also responsible for pressuring the Welsh Assembly to pass the One Planet Planning Law. The latter allows residents to build carbon neutral structures in designated green spaces.

*At present, Brithdir Mawr Cawd hold “leasehold” title to their land. Although uncommon in the US, with leasehold titl, the homeowner only owns his house and leases the property from a separate landowner. This contrasts with freehold title, where the homeowner owns both the house and land.
 

 

 

Swedish Covid 19 Management: A Documentary

Covid, Tango and the Lagom Way

Directed by Claudia Nye (2020)

Film

This documentary was made by an Argentinian expatriate (and tango aficionado) who lives in the UK and is tired of being branded a right wing fanatic for questioning the benefit of social lockdowns. It She decided to visit Sweden, one of several countries (including Taiwan and Japan) that decided not to lock down their population.

She conducts a fairly long interview with Dr Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s head epidemiologist, as well as interviewing Swedes she meets on the street.

In the absence of lockdown legislation, most Swedes over 65 chose to remain at home. Those with “comorbidities” that make them more vulnerable to severe COVID complications (eg obesity, diabetes, kidney/heart/lung disease, pregnancy) also voluntarily self-isolate. Although many Swedes now work from home and several universities have shut down, most schools and businesses have remain open and practice social distancing.

According to Tegnell, the Swedish government has no statutory powers over the Swedish Public Health Agency. The latter holds sole responsibility for enforcing public health measures.* As a general rule, the agency places responsibility on individual citizens to make good choices about protecting their own and others’ health. This contrasts with the US and other Europeans countries, whose governments (according to Nye) treat their constituents like children.

Tegnell indicates that Sweden’s COVID policy is consistent with the Swedish “Lagom” (translated “not too little, not too much”) way, which values balance above all else.

Nye goes over the COVID statistics with Tegnell At the time of filming (late 2020), 872 Swedes had died as a direct result of COVID 19 infection, and 5,813 and died “with Covid.” According to Tegnell this means they tested positive for COVID before dying from other causes.

In tracing total Swedish mortality over the last three decades, Nye finds the Sweden follows roughly the same curve as other European Countries. In fact, both Swedish and British epidemiologists agree that COVID mortality outside the 65+ age group is extremely low.

Nye also compares Swedish mortality data with that of nearby Finland and Norway. Overall mortality for 2019 and 2020 is roughly the same, with Finland and Norway experiencing a spike in mortality in 2019 (due to a a really severe influenza season) and Sweden (which experienced negligible influenza deaths in 2019) experiencing its mortality spike in 2020.


*This changed in January 2021, when the Swedish parliament gave itself statutory powers to impose lockdowns.

COVID-19: Gobbling Up Funding for Fatal Epidemics Such as Malaria, TB and AIDS

Coronavirus or Malaria, Tuberculosis and HIV?

Al Jazeera (2020)

Film Review

Why is a Low Mortality Illness Like COVID-19 Crowding out Treatment for the World’s Most Dangerous Illnesses?

This documentary reports on urgent concerns that COVID 19 “pandemic” management is crowding out prevention, diagnosis and treatment for far more serious illnesses, such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS.

Epidemiologists assert that low cost interventions such as bednets and “residual spraying” (presumably with insecticides?) are extremely effective in preventing malaria in African and Asian countries that experience malaria epidemics during the rainy season. Where the disease is diagnosed early, artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) has an extremely high response rate. Unfortunately due to diversion of Red Cross and other international funding to COVID management,  Africa’s anti-malaria programs have suffered significantly. India, however, is still making good progress in reducing disease prevalence.

Diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis has been similarly affected in the developing world, where, at present approximately 25% of patients diagnosed with HIV are unable to access life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.

 

What Next After Capitalism?

Nowtopia: A Documentary About Economic Alternatives

Masaryk University (2020)

Film Review

Filmed in the Czech Republic and featuring Nowtopia author Chris Carlsson, this documentary looks at the new economic model (which he calls Nowtopia) that is replacing capitalism. The full title of Carlsson’s book is Nowtopia: How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners are Inventing the Future Today. The filmmakers also interview Nadia Johanisova, a Czech expert in heterodox economics and eco-social enterprise. Dismayed at the cutthroat capitalism that replaced capitalism in the Eastern Bloc following the fall of the Soviet Union, Johanisova spent years in England seeking possible alternative economic models to capitalism and communism. What she ultimately eventually discovered was that Czechoslovakia had enjoyed a a vibrant independent cooperative movement even under Soviet communism.

Carlsson breaks down Nowtopia into three main components: de-commodified* activities (both old and new), self-provisioning and mutual aid.

He says it’s easier than people think to opt out of a corporate lifestyle and rely on one another (as opposed to money) to meet our needs. Over the last 50 years, the growing exploitation and oppression of paid work has broken up stable communities throughout the industrialized North. This loss of community has led individuals to live atomized and disconnected lives. This, in turn, makes it hard to imagine relying on one another to meet our needs – as humankind has done for hundreds of thousands of years.

Because the COVID economic crisis has hastened the disintegration of many capitalist structures, the entire industrialized world suddenly has an unexpected opportunity to explore alternatives to capitalism.

In Brno (Czech Republic), this takes the form of community gardens and kitchens, cooperative wineries, a bike kitchen*, and a community makerspace,** where volunteers produce free masks, plastic shields and antibacterial gel.


*Decommodification as a concept comes from the idea that in a market economy, individual persons (and their labor) are exchanged for money or “commodified.” Given that labor is the individual’s primary commodity in the market, decommodification generally refers to activities and efforts that reduce individuals’ reliance on the market (and money) for their well-being.

*Bike kitchens help people repair old bikes with secondhand parts instead of discarding them and buying new ones.

***A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that makes a variety of high and low tech tools available to kids, adults and entrepreneurs. Examples of high tech tools include 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines (heavy machines used for cutting wood or other hard material), soldering irons and even sewing machines