I wondered for a long time why climate change deniers existed. Maybe, I thought, because the truth is scary and requires us to change our ways — not a comfortable request for a society so deeply anchored in business as usual. While it’s true that climate change is indeed frightening and changing ourselves can be met with resistance, the actual reason is that there is a handful of very wealthy people who stand to lose a lot of money from the societal shift required to prevent catastrophic climate change. The rest of us, well, what we stand to lose by doing nothing can’t be measured in dollars.
Uniform, flawless produce requires a heartbreaking amount of food waste. (Photo by rick via Flickr)
If we’re to feed the world delicious, nutritious food and halt climate change, we have to kill the supermarket.
There are many reasons why I suggest this enormous beast be culled. It thrives on the unsustainable industrial agriculture model of large-scale, monocrop food production, where food is not grown for taste or nutrition. It’s then shipped long distances, so you can eat lettuce in Vancouver in January. Even if garlic is grown in your region, you’re served up the garlic from China instead.
The produce section is a sterile place devoid of scent (the first sense to get us salivating), where the fruits and vegetables are uniform, barely ripe (if at all) and virtually flawless. It’s no wonder children don’t know their food grows in the ground or on a vine: the produce is so unnatural, it hardly seems a product of nature. Its sprawling, dizzying vastness is a maze that encourages overconsumption and takes up excess land to, among other things, allow for extra-wide shopping carts. It makes buying junk food more appealing than buying produce through a combination of store positioning, packaging and price, and this leads to disease.
I could go on; the reason I’m going to focus on here, however, is its massive — and one could suggest criminal — contribution to food waste.
The environmental film series at the annual Vancouver International Film Festival appears to have blossomed this year with over a dozen films dealing with issues ranging from food waste and sustainable seafood to climate change and the tar sands.
Some of them are surprising for their genre: Burning Ice brings artists, musicians and poets to the Arctic, and People of a Feather takes us intimately into the lives of Inuit whose very existence depends on the down of eider ducks.
Premiering on Tuesday is a film about Canada’s energy use by local filmmaker Charles Wilkinson and produced by his partner, artist Tina Schliessler. I’m particularly excited to see this one as I’ve known the family since my childhood. Peace Out features interviews with both opponents and proponents of our current destructive energy systems, and aerial footage of the tar sands in Alberta, a project so massive it can be seen from space. Seen from a plane, it’s utterly heartbreaking. Ultimately, we all need to use less energy.
You might expect a film about a Vancouver couple who spend a year almost zero-waste and without buying any stuff to be a tale of unimaginable hardship and sacrifice. Indeed, the prospects of using the same toothbrush for 365 days, not replacing worn-out clothing, or making crackers from scratch are daunting but The Clean Bin Project‘s Jen and Grant take a delighted, energetic approach akin to Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon’s The 100-Mile Diet, but on the screen. The project was for them a competition for who could produce the least amount of garbage by year’s end (I won’t tell you who won), and involved learning about plastics, asking for their cheese unwrapped in their reusable container, and making the most of an old razor. Their enthusiasm was infectious. The 76-minute film is merely a glimpse at an entire year, but if it suggests anything about the 525,600 minutes they spent saving the planet, I think they enjoyed most of them.
Their artistically delicious film intersperses their own narrative of discovery — and occasional humourous disappointment — with the broader view of our consumption-based lifestyle and its consequences: successful community recycling initiatives; the Pacific Garbage Patch (which is twice the size of Texas); albatross death by plastic; landfills; and incomprehensibly large volumes of disposable stuff as depicted by Seattle artist Chris Jordan.
I was very fortunate to have attended David Suzuki’s Legacy Lecture in December, 2009. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since that evening at the Chan Centre that induced goosebumps and inspired the longest standing ovation I’ve ever witnessed. It became a book and award-winning documentary, and this Sunday, the venerable CBC airs Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie at 8pm. (Repeats April 3.)
I knew the power of his voice and his story the first time I heard him speak in our humble gathering space at the Foundation’s office. I’d never been to one of his lectures but I knew David had been toiling over his Legacy speech for quite some time before the nearly flawless delivery that evening, an intensely rehearsed and refined story that dances its way into our hearts. Like any good story it hits varying emotional points, triggers tears and joy, but inevitably leaves us feeling uplifted. If his intent as an environmentalist and scientist was really about fear-mongering like detractors suggest, the mood at the end would have been gripped in paranoia, instead of the recognition that we can dream, imagine and create, together, a future in which we live within the limits of nature. That future is not a return to dark ages; indeed, it’s full of vivid life, community and bright ideas. It’s a future where we’re no longer talking about “being green,” it’s intrinsically our way of life. What is so fearful about that?
The 10th annual World Community Film Festival presents “social justice and environmental films set around the world and across the street.” Opening tonight, it runs through Sunday afternoon at Langara College.
I’m particularly interested in films like Dirt! and Fresh, both to do with sustainable agriculture. There are films on water, pollution and biodiversity as well. Also, if you missed it in theatres, Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie plays Sunday at 3:30pm.
Come check out this variety of films that address social justice and environmental issues — two things that are inextricably linked!
It’s a familiar pattern now: Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon ate locally for a year and wrote a book about it; Jen and Grant went zero-waste for a year, blogged and filmed a documentary about it. If doing either of those things doesn’t seem crazy and transformative enough, Colin Beavan’s family of three did both for a year, and turned off their electricity (for 6 months), self-powered their transportation, went vegetarian and stopped using toilet paper. The project, No Impact Man, is a film, a book and a blog about eliminating one’s personal impact on the environment.
The point of doing something this extreme, he cautioned, was not to suggest that everyone do it, but that everyone can do something. Individual actions, he says, inspire and engage others to act. That’s the power of community, something he says has eroded. It’s also a challenge to us to consider what really is necessary for daily life and what we could do without. As Colin puts it, living with a low impact is about “doing more good than harm.” At the end of their year, Colin’s wife Michelle decided she’d like to keep cycling (something she’d never have considered a year earlier) and not bring back their TV — except on vacation.
This afternoon I saw my second* feature-length film at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis(Welcome to the Sticks), directed by Dany Boon, who also plays one of the main characters.
In a desperate attempt to appease his unhappy wife with a transfer to the French Riviera, Philippe Abrams (played by the very charming Kad Merad) instead gets sent to the middle of nowhere. The town of Bergues to be exact, in a remote corner of northern France called the Pas de Calais. Here the locals have their own way of doing things, and saying things. The townspeople speak a dialect called Ch’ti, which to Philippe’s ears is little more than gibberish. At first, Philippe has trouble understanding what anyone has to say, let alone being able to make any friends. But as the rural eccentrics gradually worm their way into his affections, he comes to appreciate the gentle pace of life in his new home. — From The Guardian, via VIFF.org
Tonight the Vancouver Public Library is hosting a screening of the film, The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, as part of its Necessary Visions series. It’s a free program and will be held at their Central branch, downtown at 350 West Georgia. Details below, and more events at the VPL website. Hope to see you there.
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is a project of The Community Solution, a non-profit organization that designs and teaches low-energy solutions to the current unsustainable, fossil fuel based, industrialized, and centralized way of living.”
— the Power of Community website
Friday June 6, 7:30 pm
Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half — and food by 80 percent — people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people. They share how they transitioned from highly mechanized agriculture to using organic farming and urban gardens.
The Necessary Visions series features screenings of locally made documentary films, followed by discussion afterwards with the filmmakers.
For more information please contact Vancouver Public Library at 604-331-3603. Sponsored by Necessary Voices and Cinema Politica.
POST-EVENT UPDATE: This film is excellent! The turnout was impressive — two hundred people maybe? — of all ages and I do believe everyone truly enjoyed it. Lots to think about, be inspired by, and make strides towards. I took 3 journal-sized pages of notes and that’s like 4.5 pages for a person with normal-sized handwriting. A small country with a truly remarkable recent history, Cuba is an example for the world on how to live. Shocking statistics revealed visually the massive differences between their way of life and that of Americans: they use one eighth of the energy and yet maintain the same (if not better) life expectancy. Given that diabetes and heart disease rates have dropped in Cuba, but the opposite is happening in the US where we forecast life expectancy to drop for the first time, I don’t doubt that a gap will start to appear. It is probably time that the US started looking to Cuba as a model for sustainable living, rather than shunning them. Not that Cuba appears to need them anymore! They’ve got it all figured out.
Celsias posted a shocking film, Patent for a Pig: The Big Business of Genetics (43 mins) with some grim truths about Monsanto that are beyond frightening. I find it hard enough to comprehend sometimes that we place a monetary value on something nature alone created, e.g. selling your cat’s litter or some plants that appeared in your backyard. (Breeding/raising is a bit different as there is work input into the result, but it’s still animals creating animals.) I’ll let the film tell the details, with this intro from the Celsias post:
It’s amazing what humankind can do with a little effort and ingenuity. Who’d a thought we could create an intelligent, four legged creature with a curly tail, that actually walks and makes cute grunting noises?
Stand by to be horrified at the lengths Big Biotech will go to take over the world’s food supplies. You’ll also be shocked to learn that pig and cattle farmers are seeing their livestock go sterile due to giving them genetically modified feed.