An exquisitely beautiful documentary about the field of forest therapy – a form of healing is most practiced in India and Japan (which has 50 healing forests).
There are numerous studies demonstrating the calming effect of forests on children. Research from both India and Finland show that holding classes there makes children calmer, helps them focus better and reduces misbehavior and violence. It’s especially effective for kids diagnosed with ADHD.
Research in adults reveals that the forest environment can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol* levels, inflammation, depression, stress and anxiety. At the same time, it also improves serotonin** levels and immunity. Forest therapy has proved helpful in treating diabetes, hyperthyroidism and addictions. In young people, it helps alleviate depression and anxiety stemming from excessive social media exposure.
It makes perfect sense that people would find forests more inducive to health than overcrowded hyper-polluted cities. As one researcher reminds us, human beings co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with forest plants and animals. This means our bodies are programmed to thrive in the presence of other living beings.
The recommended dose of forest therapy is five hours a month.
*Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone.
**Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere that is believed to mediate mood.
This documentary concerns the battle of the indigenous Sami people of Russia’s Kola Peninsula to protect their Arctic homeland against encroachment by mining companies. The mining operations (fossil fuels, platinum, gold and aluminum) are destroying the pasture of the reindeer herds the Sami depend on for their livelihood. Unable to support their families, many have abandoned the tundra for Russian cities. Those who stayed are organizing to preserve their collectively owned land.
Most of the political organizing is done by Sami women. To counter the Russian government, which tends to support the mining interests, the Sami have set up their own parliament in Murmansk. Sami women are also working to strengthen community solidarity in their villages.
One parliament member, a Sami woman named Sascha, is shown meeting with a potential reindeer farm more financially viable. Filmmakers also follow her to Norway, where she meets with Sami activists who employ direct action (eg a hunger strike in front of the Norwegian parliament) to force concessions from Norway’s mining industry. Linking up with Sami activists in Norway, Finland and Sweden has greatly enhanced the strengthen of Russia’s Sami movement.
At present, New Zealand has the second highest rate of mass incarceration in the world (after the US) – with the majority of inmates identifying as Maori. In the following presentation, Maori constitutional lawyer Moana Jackson makes the case for abolishing prisons. He cites the example of Norway, Finland and other Scandinavian countries, which decided decades ago that prisons were unsustainable and ineffective in reducing crime. In Norway, prisons are being replaced by open “habilitation” centers. In Finland, the number of prisons has been reduced from 100 to 20. The latter have mainly been replaced by mental health treatment centers.
Jackson’s main argument is that prisons are a direct result of colonization – that Maori had no prisons before European settlers arrived.* Prior to colonization, the primary Maori concern when people infringed on each other was the disruption in the net of social relationships. Different tribes set aside special facilities where victims and offenders could stay with their families to repair fractured relationships. In modern terminology, the process is referred to as “restorative justice.”** In New Zealand, we have no juvenile lock-up facilities. Instead offenders and their families meet with victims to make reparations.
Jackson also challenges the racist depiction of Maori as violent, naturally aggressive warriors. This stems from a European need to depict indigenous peoples as racially inferior to justify dispossessing. Stripping Maori of their true identity has traumatized generations of young Maori men by providing them with a distorted image of who they really are. Peeling away this lie will be essential to abolishing prisons in New Zealand.
I was intrigued to learned that both Norway and Finland consulted with indigenous Sami (who also had no prisons prior to colonization) in devising alternatives to prison.
Inside Story – How Will the Northwest Passage Influence Global Trade and Economy
Al Jazeera (2016)
This Al Jazeera documentary is about the melting of the Arctic ice cap and its effect on international trade. Shipping through the Northwest Passage, which is still limited to summer months, first began in 2008. By 2025, the Arctic is predicted to be ice free every summer. China, the world’s largest exporter, has a particular interest in the Northwest Passage, as it reduces shipping times to Europe and North America by 30%.
Canada, claiming the Northwest Passage as territorial waters, is challenging China’s right to access this trade route. Thus far, the US is siding with China, asserting the Arctic Ocean is an international waterway. At present Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Iceland and Canada have claims over the Arctic Circle under the UN Law of the Sea treaty. Owing to the US refusal to ratify the treaty, Alaska (eg the US) has no claim to this waterway.
In addition to the Northwest Passage, there is a second passage north of Russia and Norway called the Northern Sea Route. The Polar Code goes into effect next year, with mandatory structural requirements for ships traversing the Arctic Circle.