How an Environmental Justice Documentary Is Building Solidarity in the Midst of the Racial and Health Crisis
By Tracy L. Barnett
A soon-to-be-released feature film exemplifies how independent media initiatives can be powerful tools for social and environmental justice organizing. Challenging the isolation and impotence that many are feeling in the face of the current health and racial crises, the internationally acclaimed documentary The Condor & The Eagle and its impact campaign "No More Sacrificed Communities" bring us together in these challenging times – reminding us of our deep interconnectedness with the Earth and one another.
As we work to prevent the spread of COVID-19, environmental racism is presenting a deadly parallel threat for Indigenous peoples across North and South America, who continue to defend the lands and waters, protecting their communities from extraction and the pandemic. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has not paused as we battle racialized violence and COVID-19. On the contrary, as countries ease restrictions, emissions levels have rebounded to just 5% lower than last year at this time, and experts warn that we could be facing increased emissions by year's end. Meanwhile those at the front lines of the struggle for climate justice are battling disproportionately high rates of infection from Covid-19 while facing heightened risks of violence and illness from the extractive industries.
A PROFOUND WORK OF CLIMATE JOURNALISM
Oscar-winning editor and producer Douglas Blush says: "This documentary takes the struggle for climate justice beyond the standard borders of separate nations using thrilling cinematography, deeply personal stories and the urgency of tomorrow's headlines. The Condor & The Eagle is both a profound work of climate journalism and an exhilarating, emotional adventure film."
The recent burning of the Amazon, the mega-fires in Australia, and the current political climate bode ill for our planet's future habitability. But there is hope. This internationally acclaimed documentary chronicles the ongoing collective climate awakening and the imperative of urgent change. The film asks how social change happens, and explores best practices for building effective social movements, led by the most affected. As world climate scientists predict unprecedented global catastrophe, The Condor & The Eagle features Indigenous women leaders at the head of an unparalleled global response.
Four Indigenous leaders embark on an extraordinary transcontinental adventure from the Canadian boreal forests to deep into the heart of the Amazonian jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of "climate justice." The Condor & The Eagle offers a glimpse into a developing spiritual renaissance as the film's four protagonists learn from each other's long legacy of resistance to colonialism and its extractive economy.
Casey Camp-Horinek, Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, left, with Melina Laboucan_Massimo, Lubicon Cree First Nation of Alberta, in the front row of the half-million-strong People's Climate March in New York, 2014. Screenshot / The Condor & The Eagle
IMPACT CAMPAIGN: "NO MORE SACRIFICED COMMUNITIES"
Indigenous leaders, environmental groups (including Amazon Watch, Sierra Club, Extinction Rebellion), divestment and interfaith coalitions (including Interfaith Power and Light, Unitarian Universalists) are hosting impressive online events, presenting the film to large audiences along with a live-screen discussion with film and movement protagonists. In the weeks and months ahead, the film's impact campaign, "No More Sacrificed Communities," will explore how media highlighting the voices from impacted communities can compel a shift from witnessing environmental destruction to practical actions for sustainable, community-based initiatives.
Each of more than a dozen online events is hosted by a different organization and offers the opportunity to raise funds for key environmental justice groups and impacted communities that are leading the charge against destructive fossil fuel projects.
At the Red Nation International Film Festival. Left to right: Festival director Joanelle Romero, co-director Clement Guerra, film protagonist Bryan Parras, Executive Producer Jacqueline Garcia and Impact Partner Kat Lo, Eaton Workshop.
INTERNATIONAL FILM RELEASE
Since its premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2019, The Condor & the Eagle has been selected by more than 50 film festivals and has won 12 awards, most notably Best Environmental Documentary at the 2019 Red Nation International Film Festival in Beverly Hills, California.
The film's international release date is set for Wednesday, July 1, and it will be available for rent on the Films For Action website. That day also marks the film's Latin American premiere with "Defending the Defenders of the Mother Earth / Defendiendo las Defensoras de la Madre Tierra," a bilingual screening event featuring Bertha "Bertita" Zúñiga Cáceres of Honduras, daughter of the environmental martyr Berta Cáceres, and the director, among others.
A MESSAGE FROM THE FILMMAKERS
The film was directed and produced by Clement Guerra, a 37-year-old French international marketing manager, and his German wife Sophie. The couple left their comfortable careers in Europe and took their savings to live in a camper van and spend five years documenting the Indigenous-led climate justice movement.
"We don't want to be 'extractivist' filmmakers, but rather ones who work hand-in-hand with communities," Clement told The Esperanza Project in a recent interview, The Condor & The Eagle' Takes Flight. "On a personal level, this whole experience helped us face our own privilege, and we quickly realized that the pollution outside reflected the ego-toxicity we are carrying on the inside. We have been conditioned to believe that we are skin-encapsulated egos, that we are each an 'I' separate from every other 'I.' Thanks to our journey and the process of making this film, we came to realize that we all depend on each other; we are not separate."
You can support the team impact work HERE.
Maryland will become the first state in the nation Thursday to implement a ban on foam takeout containers.
- New Jersey Legislature Passes 'Most Comprehensive' Plastics Ban ... ›
- Canada to Announce Ban on Single-Use Plastics - EcoWatch ›
- The Complex and Frustrating Reality of Recycling Plastic - EcoWatch ›
- Dunkin' Says Bye to Foam Cups (But Bring Your Own Thermos ... ›
- Maine and Vermont Pass Plastic Bag Bans on the Same Day ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ajit Niranjan
Leaders from across the world have promised to turn environmental degradation around and put nature on the path to recovery within a decade.
- Destruction of Nature Is Triggering Pandemics, Say Leaders of WWF ... ›
- The UN Wants to Protect 30% of the Planet by 2030 - EcoWatch ›
- New WWF Report Calls for Protecting Nature to Prevent Future ... ›
Just days after a new report detailed the "unequivocal and pervasive role" climate change plays in the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires, new fires burned 10,000 acres on Sunday as a "dome" of hot, dry air over Northern California created ideal fire conditions over the weekend.
- California's Iconic Redwoods Threatened by Wildfires - EcoWatch ›
- California Wildfires Destroy Condor Sanctuary, at Least 4 Birds Still ... ›
- 7 Devastating Photos of Wildfires in California, Oregon and ... ›
- David Attenborough Calls For Ban on Deep-Sea Mining - EcoWatch ›
- Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on ... ›
- David Attenborough Gives Stark Warning in New BBC Climate ... ›
Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
- Overlooked Flood Risk Endangers Homeowners - EcoWatch ›
- Florida Coastal Flooding Maps: Residents Deny Predicted Risks to ... ›
- Flooding Risk for U.S. Homes: Millions More Are Vulnerable Than ... ›