If Not Us, Then Who?

The Question, is at the back of our minds,

as we waltz into an era of global struggle. As the music speeds up to a frantic pace, however, we continue to dance, ignoring the warning signs just to enjoy our evening of overindulgence on this planet, a little bit more.

 We know our overconsumption, thirst for fossil fuels, deforestation, and the toxic effects of our resource lust will be a real pain to clean up in the morning, but we hold out, collectively thinking, “someone really should do something about the state of our Earth.”

Sadly, not everyone has been invited to the party. Peoples all over the world who live closely to the land, who depend on a healthy environment for their livelihoods, and who suffer through the damaging consequences of natural exploitation have been fighting to survive through the night.

As the victims of environmental injustice often live in remote environments, filmmakers play a critical role in amplifying their voices. Paul Redman, of Handcrafted Films, has been traveling throughout Central America, Peru, Brazil, and Indonesia to unify defiance against ecological abuses as part of the “If Not Us, Then Who?” campaign. Redman and his team work with indigenous communities to listen to their stories, help them document their troubles, and use the rapidly-produced yet emotive, beautiful, and effective short films to build support towards a solution.

“The aim of the project is to promote indigenous people as the most viable solution to the long term protection of forests.” Redman writes FFC. “We are also developing various events in partnership with international and national NGOs and have so far launched in New York, Lima and Indonesia.”

One “If Not Us, Then Who?” story is about the murder of an indigenous Peruvian activist named Edwin Chota, who fought against illegal logging in his Asheninka community:

 

 

“I filmed the widows of the four murdered Ashanenka leaders at the end of last year and we promoted the film in partnership wth Global Witness & Rainforest Foundation US in Lima,” Redman writes.

 

After showing the photos and film at the Lima Itinerant Film Festival in November of 2014, and bringing in Ashanenka leaders, the Peruvian government finally listened.

“The villagers of Saweto have since been granted land title to over 80,000 hectares of their traditional forests, which is a real success story for everyone involved.” Redman writes. “But we are still working to ensure more land titles are granted to other Ashanenka communities and we are exploring ways to do that later this year.”

Since screening the film in Peru, Redman left the materials with local NGOs and he and his team moved on to Indonesia to fight monoculture eucalyptus plantations:

The campaign is fully funded by the Ford Foundation and the Climate & Land Use Alliance (CLUA), and is aiming to bring these voices to The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“We have further promotional events in Germany and Paris later this year to build awareness before the UNFCCC meeting in Paris,” Redman writes.

Now that the music sounds a bit slurred, and we realize that our waltz cannot last forever, what can we do? To help right these injustices,

  1. Don’t buy products that use tropical hardwoods, as many logging operations forge the documents to export their wood as though it came from legal concessions – with up to 80% of wood being fraudulently claimed as legal, according to Greenpeace Brazil
  2. Don’t buy products that use palm oil, as palm oil plantations contribute to the deforestation of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the forests of many other peoples
  3. Sign petitions to protect indigenous people and rainforests here, at Takepart.com http://www.takepart.com/feature/2015/02/06/sustainable-furniture-killing-indigenous-people

 

And thank Paul Redman and his team, for answering the question “If Not Us, Then Who?” with resounding action!

 

 

“The Simpsons” tackles hydraulic fracturing

“Fracking?! That sounds like scary Lisa language!” – Homer Simpson

 

In its 26th and final season, The Simpsons isn’t finished fighting yet. The show continues to push (and frequently mock) the boundaries of distributor Fox, addressing hot-button issues like natural gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing.

In S26Ep5, Homer must endure hosting his despised sisters-in-law, Patty and Selma, and installs smoke detectors all over the house to catch the chain smokers damaging the kids’ lungs. They seek refuge in the bathroom – turning on the sink for a cover – and when they light up – BOOM! The bathroom explodes, and Lisa starts digging into why their house’s water would catch on fire.

Lisa pulls out her tablet and flips through a list of depressing environmental documentaries she’s seen before settling on a “Simpsonsfied” version of Josh Fox’s Gasland.

Lisa Simpson is a great viewer of tense environmental issue films

Lisa Simpson is a great viewer of tense environmental issue films

Lisa finds out it’s none other than C. Montgomery Burns behind the fracking, and writes her favorite State Assemblywoman, Maxine Lumbard (voiced by Jane Fonda), who goes after “his exxxcccelency” Burns. In turn, Burns gives Homer a promotion and a flannel shirt to convince the community why they should sell their mineral rights so Burns can continue fracking under their neighborhood.

Throughout the episode, however, Marge is heavily hit by the scary thought of what fracking has done to her family’s water. Her refrain: “Our water was on fire.”

Ignoring the lure of money, the hype of creating jobs, and even the detailed explanations of Professor (HOIYVEN-KLAYVEN) Frink, Marge saves her family from a fracking-induced earthquake, and convinces Homer to heed the omen of flammable water:

The episode, “Opposites A-Frack” is a strong reminder that sometimes the clear signs of unnatural balance are hard to ignore – even if they must be shouted over an earthquake caused by blasting rock formations with water to squeeze out drops of profit. Fracking has dangerous and unknown consequences – even Homer Simpson gets it.

Watch the full episode on Hulu

Exclusive Interview – Tanya Petersen

Tanya Peterson:

Thinking Out of the Box: How can Film and Television deal with “hot” issues like climate change?

Tanya Peterson is a former Co-President of Filmmakers for Conservation. 

She helped found ClimateWorks Australia, served as the Head of TV and Film for WFF International in Geneva for eight years, and is currently the head of Marketing for the The Gold Standard Foundation, “a certification organization pioneering Results Based Finance approaches to clean energy deployment, conservation and broader development.”

On Coal River

Description:

Coal River Valley, West Virginia is a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. ON COAL RIVER follows a former miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.

Ed Wiley once worked at the same coal waste facility that now threatens his
granddaughter’s elementary school. When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. With insider knowledge and a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, the state government, and a notorious coal company – Massey Energy – for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.

Along the way, Ed is supported by his neighbors Bo and Judy, who are locked in their own battle with Massey Energy over their practice of “mountaintop removal” – blowing up mountains to extract coal. Together, Bo and Judy help Ed bring attention to the dangers at Marsh Fork Elementary, hoping that if they save the school, they can save the valley.

Positive results:

ON COAL RIVER is proud to have contributed to greater public awareness and policy maker scrutiny on the issues of mountaintop removal and coal slurry injection. The film screened in the US Capitol June 24 2010, sponsored by two members of Congress. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) personnel with authority over mountaintop removal were in the audience and said afterwards they were quite impacted by the film. One mining regulator commented that the film “hit him in the gut.”

ON COAL RIVER elicited public statements about mountaintop removal from celebrities Josh Lucas, Gloria Reuben, Woody Harrelson, and Hugh Jackman. Gloria Reuben personally gave her copy of ON COAL RIVER to Lisa Jackson, head of the US EPA. Shortly after our AFI/Discovery Channel – SILVERDOCS premiere, we helped facilitate an ongoing collaboration between Coal River Valley schools and the prestigious Sidwell School of Washington, DC, where President Obama’s daughters attend school.

In addition to the film, many non-profit organizations and individual activists have done a tremendous amount of work on the issue in the last few years. Although mountaintop removal has not yet been outlawed, the EPA is regulating the practice more closely, and a West Virginia state ban on the practice of underground slurry injection will soon be up for a vote.

Contact/Links:

Directors: Adams Wood and Francine Cavanaugh, Downriver Media
775 Haywood Road, Suite F, Asheville, NC 28806 USA
P: 1 (828) 230-7315,
E: info@oncoalriver.com
Web:
www.oncoalriver.com
www.facebook.com/oncoalriver
www.twitter.com/oncoalriver
www.vimeo.com/oncoalriver

By Jason Peters

Mindless Mining – The Tragedy of Kudremukh

Description:

At the heart of the stunning rainforest and grassland ecosystem of the Kudremukh National Park in south India, a huge Government-owned iron ore mining operation stripped the hills bare for over 20 years. Every year, heavy monsoon rains washed enormous quantities of loose soil from the mined slopes into the Bhadra River, leading to siltation on a massive scale. Floods caused by the silted river overflowing its banks used to leave a thick sludge of iron ore on the fields of farmers cultivating along its banks, greatly reducing the fertility of the soil and their crop yields. This disastrous mining project was one of the
most horrific examples of bad land use and environmental destruction.

With its lease having run out, the mining company had applied for, and been assured of, a renewal of their lease for another 20 years. Such a renewal would have meant the opening up of new areas of pristine forests to mining, resulting in the destruction of the Thunga River that also originates in these hills. Mindless Mining – the tragedy of Kudremukh was made on a shoestring budget as a pro bono film to support an advocacy campaign by Wildlife First, a Bangalore based conservation NGO.

Positive results:

The film, which portrays both the beauty of Kudremukh and the havoc caused by 20 years of opencast mining, played a pivotal role in turning the tide of public and political opinion against the continuation of mining in this fragile ecosystem. The film was also submitted as supporting evidence to the Indian Supreme Court, which was hearing a Public Interest Petition against the continuation of mining filed by Wildlife First. In October 2002, in an unprecedented judgment, the Supreme Court ordered the closure of the iron ore mining operation in Kudremukh by 2005. Since then, the mined slopes have started showing signs of recovery and the tracks of tigers and other wildlife are being noticed in the abandoned mining area.

Contact/Links:

Producer: Shekar Dattatri
Duration: 12 minutes
Format: MINI DV Country:
India Production Year: 2001
www.shekardattatri.com

By Jason Peters