Will the Green Revolution Save Us?

Breakpoint: A Counter History of Progress

Directed by Jean Robert Vialett (2019)

Film Review

This is a bleak but fascinating documentary about the downside of so-called “progress” associated with the two century-long fossil fuel age. Starting with the replacement of wood with coal in the early 18th century, the film examines each new technological innovation the ruling elite celebrates as “progress.” By the end of the film, it is alarmingly clear that the great majority of the global population has paid an enormous price for this progress, in terms of chronic exposure to toxic chemicals and radionucleotides, global warming, near total deforestation, collapse of our fish stocks, colonization, massive poverty, and destruction of formerly vibrant public spaces by the automobile.

In the filmmaker’s view, what is commonly called “progress” are actually wealth making schemes that have made a few hundred people fabulously wealthy by destroying the health and wellbeing of the rest of us.

There are a number of surprises in the film. Previously I had no idea that social critics were warning against deforestation at the beginning of the 19th century, nor that this was a principal driver of the shift to coal. Nor was that the first solar PV technology was developed during World War II to reduce domestic demand for oil (needed for the war effort). The first solar home, built in 1948, was 75% self-sufficient. The early 1950s saw the production of 100,000 solar water heaters in the US. Eighty-percent of Florida homes were solar equipped at the peak of the first solar boom.

The early solar industry would be strangled in its infancy by a conspiracy between railroads, coal companies, and property developers to ensure all new power plants were coal-fired and all post-war boom homes connected to the grid.

The 1973 oil shock and Club of Rome study Limits to Growth inspired Carter to push energy conservation policies, as well as installing solar panels on the White House a second time in 1979. The solar industry would be killed a second time by the wave of neoliberal globalization launched by Reagan and Thatcher.

I was also horrified to learn about Project Plowshare, which promoted the use of nuclear bombs for “peaceful purposes” during the fifties and sixties. For 20 years, the US government detonated 27 atomic bombs to build a ship canal in Alaska. This cost taxpayers $770 million ($4 billion in today’s dollars).

The Soviets deployed 150 atomic bombs for similar civilian purposes.

The filmmaker is extremely pessimistic about the Green Revolution “saving” us given the massive demand for rare earth minerals (such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel) required to make solar panels and storage batteries.

Anyone with public library card can view film free at Kanopy – just type Kanopy and the name of your library into the search engine.



Sales of Dystopian Novel Skyrocket Thanks to Trump

The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1990 movie based on feminist Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. Sales of The Handmaid’s Tale have recently skyrocketed, largely owing to the extreme Christian fundamentalists in Trump’s new cabinet, his advocacy for military and police expansion and torture and his attacks on women’s rights.

The plot focuses around a military theocracy during a future period in which most have become infertile through toxic chemical exposure. All women are stripped of their rights and all fertile women are enslaved and forced to produce babies for infertile elite couples of the ruling elite.

In addition to the presence of heavily armed military on every street corner, social control is maintained through a perverted fundamentalist Christian doctrine that sanctions slavery and ceremonial rape. Although the lower classes are forced into strict religious conformity, the elite rulers willfully ignore it as they pursue a life of clandestine debauchery.

Last year the film was remade into a 10-part TV series that premiers in April.

Hulu Handmaids Tale Teaser Trailer

Old Pirates Yes They Rob I

Modern Times: The Way of All Flesh

Directed by Adam Curtis (1997)

Film Review

“Old pirates, yes, they rob I, sold I to the merchant ships” – Bob Marley (Redemption Song)

The Way of All Flesh is an early Adam Curtis documentary about an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks. While being treated for cancer in 1951, Lacks had her unique genetic material stolen without the knowledge or permission of her family. Copied and distributed around the world, her cells were referred to as HeLA cells. Unique for their ability to reproduce in a test tube, they were the source of obscene profits for several biotech and cosmetic companies.

Her children only found out after scientists approached them in the 1960s to to request samples of their genetic material. Outraged at the outright theft of their mother’s cells, they tried to sue some of the companies and were told the statute of limitations had expired.

The documentary also examines the ability of the cancer research community to shamelessly blackmail Congress and nonprofit foundations into funding research boondoggles that have no evidence base. In the 1960s they milked the unsubstantiated claim that viruses cause cancer for hundreds of millions of dollars. In the 1990s they would do the same with claims that cancer has a genetic basis.

All this, I might add despite unequivocal historical and anthropological evidence that cancer was virtually unknown before 1900 and the introduction of hundreds of toxic chemicals into our air, water and food chain.

Poisoned Planet

poisoned planet

Poisoned Planet: How Constant Exposure to Man-Made Chemicals is Putting Your Life at Risk

By Julian Cribb
Allen and Unwin (2014)

Book Review

Poisoned Planet is an encyclopedia of environmental toxins and their effect on human health. At present, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved 84,000 different manufactured chemicals. This doesn’t include unintentionally released chemicals, which number even higher. In 36 years, the EPA has only banned five chemicals. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitors 212. All human beings on the planet have a minimum of 150 toxic chemicals in their bloodstream, regardless of where they live.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that man made toxic chemicals cause 4.9 million deaths annually. According to Australian journalist Julian Cribb, the largest source of chemical toxicity is coal burning power plants, giving off mercury, cadmium, sulfur and volatile organic carcinogens. These toxins cause 170,000 deaths annually, mostly from mercury poisoning. Mercury enters the food chain via fish, rice and green vegetables. Public health officials have been warning pregnant women and small children not to eat tuna or shellfish for two decades.

While many toxic exposures are unavoidable, it’s really scary how many people are poisoning themselves and their children through indoor air pollution, food packaging, sunscreens, cosmetics and cleaning products containing toxic chemicals. See Obgyns Speak Out On Toxic Chemicals and Buyer Beware: Americans are Systematically Poisoning Themselves

Cribb is highly critical of doctors for failing to warn their patients about these risks. Sadly current medical training is totally drug-based and medical students receive minimal training in nutrition or toxicology.

In the developed world, indoor air pollution is caused by chemicals emitted by synthetic building materials; wall, floor and furniture coverings; bedding; paints; plastic; foam rubber and common pesticides.

The most worrying toxins in food packaging are phthalates and bisphenyl A (BPA). Both are linked to cancer, infertility, asthma, obesity, diabetes and endocrine and neurobehavioral disorders.

Toxins found in sunscreen and cosmetics include phthalates, triclosan and parabins, which have all been linked to cancer, infertility and obesity.

Epidemiologists estimate eighty percent of all cancers are linked to environmental factors, with cancer rates increasing by 1-3% a year. There is also growing evidence implicating environmental toxins to the growing epidemic of infertility and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Big Pharma Controls Health Care


Big Pharma: How the World’s Biggest Drug Companies Control Illness

By Jacky Law

Constable and Robinson Ltd (2006)

Book Review

In the ten years since British journalist Jacky Law published Big Pharma, the only good news is growing public awareness of the drug industry’s negative effect on human health. There’s no question the wealth and power of the pharmaceutical industry has vastly increased with the enactment of Obamacare in 2010. The latter grants major federal subsidies to both the insurance and drug industry.

Law carefully unpacks the fundamentals that position Big Pharma’s profits at the very top of Fortune 500 companies. In 2001, for example, they were number one, earning profits equal to 16-18% of sales. The banking industry was a distance second at 13.5%. While other Fortune 500 companies averaged 3.3%.

She attributes these obscene profits mainly to inflated prices Big Pharma charges Americans (as much as 5-10 times as much as in other countries), their deliberate efforts to bury and/or spin negative research, their bribing of doctors (with gifts, free lunch, training junkets and consultant fees) and medical journals (with glossy high priced ads), the refusal of the FDA to regulate pharmaceuticals (see FDA Now Completely Sold Out to Big Pharma) and direct to consumer ads aimed at convincing healthy people they need medical attention.

She devotes a whole chapter to “disease mongering,” Big Pharma’s deliberate creation of fictitious illnesses such as menopause, serotonin deficiency, post luteal dysphoric disorder and female sexual desire disorder. This is a topic I blog about frequently. See The Multibillion Dollar Depression Industry, Drug Companies: Killing Kids for Profit, Wyeth and the Multimillion Dollar Menopause Industry and Menopause Made in the USA

She also details studies dating back to 1982 revealing that low fat diets don’t decrease cardiovascular disease, as well as studies from 1992 revealing that cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) don’t reduce mortality. Thanks to the deliberate harassment and demonization of the researchers responsible for these studies, this information has only come into public view in the last two years. See Why the Low Fat Diet Makes You Fat (and Gives You Heart Disease, Cancer and Tooth Decay

Law is also highly critical of the role the pharmaceutical industry has played in minimizing the importance of poor nutrition and exposure to toxic chemicals in causing illness. She finds it extremely ironic (and immoral) that the federal government is clamping down on health supplements instead of environmental toxins.

Medicinal Plants and Poison-Free Cancer Treatment

medicinal plants

(In my last of four posts about the effectiveness of natural health care, I offer two videos.)

1. Video #1:  Numen: The Healing Power of Plants by Terrence Youk and Ann Armbrech (2009).

Numen is as much about the environmental health crisis as about plant-based medicine. It stresses that herbal medicine, the primary form of medical treatment for most of human history, remains the primary form of medical intervention for most of the world’s inhabitants. The western medical model that developed in the industrialized world is a fluke. It also has major drawbacks as well as advantages. Rates of chronic illness – such as diabetes, arthritis, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease – a far higher in developed countries. Even as our deaths from trauma and infectious disease decline sharply.

According to the film, it’s not western medicine per se causing an increase in these chronic illnesses. The main cause is heavy exposure to a score of industrially produced chemicals. A 2005 study by the Center for Disease Control reveals that Americans carry an average of 148 toxic chemicals in their bloodstream. Even more alarming, these toxins concentrate in breast milk which, ironically, has become the most toxic baby food available.

The scientific explanation Numen offers for the effectiveness of plant-based medicine seems quite reasonable. Human beings, who share 60% of the same DNA as a banana, co-evolved with advanced plant species over millions of years.

The video can’t be embedded owing for copyright reasons. However it can be seen for free at Dr Mercola’s website

Video #2:  The Cancer Report Health Wyze (2011)

The Cancer Report is really a slide show set to music (I recommend turning your volume down). It also explores the link between a dramatic increase in environmental toxins and the current cancer epidemic. Prior to the 20th century, cancer was considered a medical oddity. Much of the film traces the role of oil and chemical baron John D Rockefeller in funding medical schools in the US and Canada – provided they agreed to discard traditional holistic methods in favor of drug-based (chemical-based) treatment.

I found the section on Dr Otto Warburg, who won the 1931 Nobel Prize for Medicine, particularly enlightening. Warburg identified how and why cancer cells develop – specifically as a result of cells being deprived of oxygen. According to the video, most “alternative” cancer therapies are based on Warburg’s work, in that they try to increase cell oxygenation. In chemotherapy, in contrast, patients are given powerful poisons that often kill them rather than the cancer. Moreover chemotherapy never cures the cancer, but merely sends it into remission.

The last half of The Cancer Report catalogs the most effective alternative cancer therapies, providing a detailed description of how they were developed, how they work, and their relative success rate.

The data presented about the poor survival rates related to chemotherapy and radiation therapy are both accurate and concerning. Five years ago, a close friend opted for a grueling course of chemotherapy that offered zero chance of remission and a 33% chance of extending her life for six months. In her shoes, I definitely would have opted for one of the alternative treatments outlined in the film.

Caveat: There are a number of claims made in the video that can’t be substantiated – for example that mammograms cause breast cancer. It’s true that any radiation exposure increases cancer risk and that mammograms don’t reduce breast cancer deaths (see How Mammograms Don’t Save Lives). The fact remains medical science still has no way of linking a specific cancer to a specific environmental exposure.

photo credit: BioDivLibrary via photopin cc