The Healing Benefits of Forest Therapy

The Healing Forests of India

Directed by Nitin Das (2019)

Film Review

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.

 

Churchill’s War Crimes: The Bengal Famine

The World Today with Tariq Ali – Bengal Shadows

Telasur (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the war crime British prime minister Winston Churchill committed in 1943. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali introduces and narrates the 2017 documentary Bengal Shadows. His commentary includes priceless quotes from Churchill

. . . on learning of the Bengal famine:

I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine is their own fault for breeding like rabbits.

. . .on learning the famine had killed millions:

Then why isn’t Gandhi dead?

The Bengal famine was clearly man made. By early 1942, the Japanese military occupied all of China to the East Bengal border. Fearing they would invade India, British authorities seized and burned all of Bengal’s surplus rice stocks and all their boats, bicycles and bullock carts. They were following a typical scorched earth policy – aimed at preventing the invasion of India.

This meant there was no way to transport grains from inland Bengal, where harvests were good, when a tsunami destroyed the 1942 coastal harvest.

Churchill adamantly refused to provide starving Bengali with food relief. When Australia dispatched ships loaded with food grains, British authorities in Bengal turned them away. Ironically US ships loaded with Australian grain refueled in Bengal en route to troops in the Middle East.

Three million people died in the man made famine. Many of the farmers who planted the bumper 1943 rice crop weren’t alive to harvest it.

Many in India (and modern day Bangladesh) believe the British owe them reparations for the 1943 famine.

 

World Wildlife Fund: Scapegoating Rural Peasants for the Mass Extinction Crisis

Victim of the WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

ZEMBLA (2019)

Film Review

This documentary explores the role of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in driving peasant farmers off their land to expand the Karziranga National Park in Assam India. A lengthy investigation has documented that WWF is arming and training park rangers to expel local peasants (without compensation) for land their families have farmed for generations.

Many are arbitrarily shot and killed (without due process) as alleged poachers. Some victims are merely tortured and released.

WWF, which has arbitrarily identified Third World overpopulation as the major cause of mass species extinction, also runs (with the support of Johnson and Johnson* and USAID**) Indian family planning and sterilization clinics. When the Dutch filmmakers attempt to interview villagers served by the WWF family planning program, they are detained and turned back by police.

The filmmakers blame “Western” (ie colonial) attitudes for WWF’s decision to scapegoat poor peasants – who play no role whatsoever in mass extinction and biodiversity loss. The true culprits are overconsumption and ideologically driven economic growth in industrialized countries.


*USAID (US Agency for International Development) is an “independent” agency of the US government closely associated with CIA and State Department regime change operations.

**Silence of the Pandas is a 2011 documentary about WWF’s close collaboration with Monsanto, palm oil manufacturers and other multinational corporations that are systematically destroying wildlife habitat. See A Classic Case of Greenwashing

Fighting Globalization by Rebuilding Local Economies

White Widows

Directed by David Straub (2019)

Film Review

This documentary concerns work by the Indian-German Peace Foundation to assist rural Indian villages in diversifying their economies. The goal is to make them less vulnerable to exploitation by the global commodities market. The village featured in the film is Dahnoli, which produces cotton. The Foundation is assisting local farmers in constructing a textile facility based on hand looms.

Most of Dahnoli’s current economic problems stem from the introduction, in the 1990s, of Monsanto’s BT resistant cotton seed. Although this genetically engineered seed initially increased yields, over time the cotton plants lost their resistance to BT and other pests and required increasingly heavy application of pesticides. As yields plummeted, farmers sought to return to traditional cotton seed, but it was no longer available.

Owing to the higher costs of patented seed and pesticides, many farmers became indebted to money lenders. Nationwide more than 300,000 farmers committed. Thousands of others have died from pesticide related health problems.

At present 65% of India’s population works in agriculture. When crops fail, many move to the big cities – where a total of 8 million live in slavery.

 

The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

The Ugly Face of Beauty: Is Child Labour the Foundation for Your Makeup?

RT (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about mica mining in the Jharkhand state in India, which produces 60% of the global mica supply. In addition to its use (as glitter) in cosmetics, mica is used to manufacture joint compound (for filling and seams in drywall), drilling fluids (in fracking), plastics, synthetic textiles and as an insulator in the electronics industry.

Although mica mining is technically illegal in India (owing to serious health risks, eg lung cancer and potential mine collapse), mica “processing” is legal and immensely profitable.

Rough 20,000 children (some as young as 3) are employed in mica mining in India. Adults can earn up to $3 per day, with lower caste workers earning less. They sell the mica they mine to processing plants or to the “mica mafia,” which sells it directly to exporters.

Poisoning the World: The Companies that Profit Big from Exporting Banned Chemicals

Circle of Poison

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This documentary is about the US export of toxic pesticides that are banned in the US. This is ironic. Despite these domestic bans, heavy dependence on food imports means that most Americans end up ingesting these toxins in imported produce. In fact the only way Americans can avoid pesticide-laden food is to buy certified organic food from local farmers.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter signed an executive order banning the export of toxic pesticides. The order was revoked by Reagan a few months after his inauguration.

The US controls 75% of the global pesticide market via five notorious companies: Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow and BSAF. Although Bayer, Syngenta and BSAF are European companies, they produce their toxic pesticides in the US, where export regulations are more lax (ie non-existent). The pesticide industry has one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Thanks to the courage of Democratic Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Senate has passed several bills banning pesticide exports. However because members face re-election every two years, they have no hope whatsoever of winning in House.

Most of the film concerns the epidemic of cancer and horrendous birth defects in India, Mexico, Argentina and other countries that continue to use US-produced pesticides that are banned in the global North.

Surprisingly it ends on an optimistic note with news about the growing organic food movement in Argentina, Kerala India and Bhutan. Rather than pressuring their governments to ban toxic pesticides, activists are learning chemical-free organic soil building techniques. In doing so, they also significantly increase their yields. In replacing monoculture techniques with crop diversity, organic farming methods are far more productive per unit land than traditional agriculture.

The full video can be viewed for free at the Al Jazeera website: Circle of Poison

Tomorrow We Disappear: The Human Price of Development

Tomorrow We Disappear: New Dehli’s Kathputli Slum

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This is one of the saddest and most beautifully made documentaries I’ve ever seen. It concerns a 60-year-old artist colony in a New Dehli slum called Kathputli. The film follows the artists’ futile struggle to block government plans to evict them to make way for a shopping mall and high rise commercial and residential buildings.

The 1500 artists who have learned their craft from parents and grandparents, consist of magicians, puppeteers, musicians, carvers, acrobats, fire eater, dancers and jugglers. Most earn a meager living as street performers in the crowded streets of New Dehli. The documentary follows their fruitless negotiations with government officials and property developers.

In the end they organize a series of colorful protests featuringde giant puppets, stilt walkers, jugglers, acrobats and magicians in brilliantly colored costumes. Their goal is to call public attention to what is being lost.

Their colony was bulldozed in late 2017, and they were all moved to temporary “transit” camps (they look more like concentration camps) at considerable distance from Dehli.