In the age of Covid, it so happens that the pandemic of Parkinson’s Disease is genuine. The global incidence of Parkinsonism, a severely disabling neurological disorder (involving tremors, difficulty moving, walking and swallowing, pain, incontinence, dementia and depression) is soaring.
As elsewhere California’s Central Valley, which grows 25% of America’s vegetables are grown, is experience multiple clusters of the disease. Owing to a 1970s California law, all farmers in the state must report all pesticide. At present, this register reveals a 75% increase of Parkinsonism in residents living adjacent to fields using toxic pesticides.
Scientists are investigating two dozen pesticides for a possible causative role in Parkinson’s disease. The herbicide Paraquat and the fungicide Mangozeb have both been banned in the EU.
German farmers interviewed in the film continue to use pesticides despite being aware of the risk. They say they can’t afford not to use them unless the German government bans cheap imports from other countries that also use pesticides.
In France, Parkinsonism has been listed as an occupational disease (owing to its link to pesticide use) since 2012. French vineyards spray their grapes with pesticides 30-40 times a year, and French wine has been found to contain between nine and sixteen different pesticide residues.
Other studies have found pesticides in milk and air studies of big cities and pristine old growth forests.
This documentary examines the brutally exploitive and unsustainable conditions in which tires are produced.
The filmmakers begin by visiting rubber plantations in Thailand, the world’s largest rubber producer. On one of the largest rubber plantations, Cambodian immigrants (Thai workers refuse to work for the starvation wages offered) receive approximately half the minimum wage ($140/month), despite working everyday and four nights a week. They are also exposed to Paraquat, a deadly herbicide causing severe liver and kidney disease and banned in 32 countries.
Pay and working conditions in Thai rubber processing plants are somewhat better. There workers earn $150/month ($250/month in the busy season), plus free accommodation and electricity and 20 kg of rice a month. Unlike plantations workers, they live in shacks provided with kitchens and bathrooms.
The filmmakers also visit Cambodian rubber plantations, where they speak with villagers who have been illegally driven off their land to make way for rubber plantations.
The final segment of the film investigates the tire retread industry, which recycles old tires by putting new tread on them. Studies reveal that modern retreaded tires are just as safe and reliable as new ones, despite using 80% less new rubber than new tires. With global demand for tires increasing by 7% annually, there needs to be a much greater effort to market retreaded tires to sustainability conscious consumers.
The tire manufacturers DW contacted about the atrocious working conditions on their rubber plantations and in their processing plants (Goodyear, Bridgestone, Michelin, and Continental) declined to be interviewed.