Normal is Over 1.1: Solutions to Reverse Global Ecological Decline
Directed by Renee Scheltema (2019)
What intrigued me most about this documentary, is that it validates claims the economic downturn preceded the WHO declaration of the COVID 19 pandemic in March 2020. I also like the way Scheltema expands on the present ecological crisis to include mass species extinction, the global economic crisis and increasing inequality, as well as catastrophic climate change.
The film uses the 1973 Club of Rome report Limits to Growth as her point of departure. The latter employed MIT mathematical modeling to predict that resource depletion would force global economic growth to end some time between 2000 and 2010. Just as they predicated it ended (everywhere but China) with the 2008 global financial crash. the latter unleashed an epidemic of unemployment, homelessness and poverty (especially among young people and minorities) from which the developed world never fully recovered.
Scheltema follows this introduction with a very elegant explanation by economist Charles Eisenstein linking the present growth imperative to our debt-based monetary system. At present nearly all our money is created by private banks as loans. Because we currently have no other way for money to come into existence, businesses and individuals must continually seek new products and services (including their own labor) to sell to repay ever increasing public and private debt levels. This frenzied drive to produce, in turn, drives ever heavier resource extraction.
The solution? Scheltema uses the bulk of the film to highlight the efforts of high profile sustainability champions:
Vandana Shiva – fighting to restore lower cost, less polluting natural organic farming through the Navdanya Institute she founded in India)
Beth Terry – founder of My Plastic Free Life)
Reverend Billy – founder of the Church of Stop Shopping
The “Lord of the Flies” – one of numerous scientists pioneering the use of fly larvae for organic waste treatment
African activists fighting to reverse desertification in the sub-Sahara through tree planting
Michael Baumgart, co-founder of the Cradle to Cradle upcycling movement
Kate Raeworth -British economist campaigning for a new distributive and regenerative economy *
Lester Brown – US environmental analyst who calls for 80% reduction in CO2 by 2030
Bernard Lietaer – Complementary (local) currency champion
Culture Jam is one of my favorite documentaries of all time. It describes a guerilla movement which started in the 1970s and was popularized by the Billboard Liberation Front. The goal of culture jamming is to counter pervasive the consumerist messaging in contemporary society.
The movement came to wide public attention with the publication of Canadian anarchist Kalle Lasn’s 1999 book Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America and the launch of Adbusters magazine
The main focus of the Billboard Liberation Front was to covertly “improve” on billboard advertising to help it more accurately reflect post industrial capitalism. Some examples below:
Other culture jammers featured in the film include a woman who operates solo pasting anti-consumerist stickers on cash machines and other high traffic targets and Reverend Billy from the Church of Stop Shopping. Filmmakers capture Reverend Billy and his flock praying with Disney Store customers in Times Square to help them resist their compulsion to purchase new Disney products.
The film, which can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, can be viewed free at Culture Jam
What Would Jesus Buy? is a documentary highlighting the crass commercialization of Christmas in western society. Its main focus is the 2006 Christmas tour of Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir. Reverend Billy is one of the culture jamming performance activists featured in the 2001 movie Culture Jam: Hijacking Commercial Culture.*
What Would Jesus Buy? intersperses scenes from the tour with grisly photos of frenzied Black Friday stampedes and interviews with avid consumers as they indulge their compulsive need to shop.
High points include the attempt by Reverend Billy and the Choir to “exorcise” the Walmart home office, their visit to Mall of America in Minnesota (the largest shopping mall in the world) and their appearance at Disneyland on Christmas day. Disney managers (who are world-renowned for their viciousness) had Reverend Billy arrested, and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir held an overnight vigil outside the Anaheim jail.
In October he and the Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir will open for Neil Young for his tour of the Pacific Northwest.
*Culture jamming is a tactic used by anti-consumerist social movements to disrupt or subvert media culture and its mainstream cultural institutions, including (but not limited to) corporate advertising. The term is credited to Kalle Lasn, founder of Adbusters magazineand author of the 1999 book Culture Jam: the Uncooling of America.
Below is a ritual Robobee exorcism Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping performed in the Harvard labs on May 25, 2014
The world is facing massive die-off of bee populations, thanks to heavy use of pesticides manufactured by Bayer and Monsanto.
The loss of bee populations severely threatens global food production (70-80% of plant and animal foodstuffs depend on bee pollination).
In response, the EU has banned pesticides found to be harmful to bees.
In contrast the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has declined to enact a similar ban in the US, largely due to massive congressional lobbying by Monsanto.
Instead Harvard University is researching the creation of tiny drone bees – called Robobees – to replace the bees killed off by pesticides. Unbelievable, isn’t it – the lengths scientists and governments will go to to avoid doing the right thing.