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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Coronavirus Shines Light on Zoos as Danger Zones for Deadly Disease Transmission Between Humans and Animals
By Marilyn Kroplick
The term "zoonotic disease" wasn't a hot topic of conversation before the novel coronavirus started spreading across the globe and upending lives. Now, people are discovering how devastating viruses that transfer from animals to humans can be. But the threat can go both ways — animals can also get sick from humans. There is no better time to reconsider the repercussions of keeping animals captive at zoos, for the sake of everyone's health.
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By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a335b5dffdd806bd6bb4debea90c2045"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dxsb9c4HMn0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.
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By Kristen Pope
Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.
Groans, Creaks, Icebergs’ Calving Splashes<p>Oskar Glowacki already knew that melting glacial ice sounds like frying bacon. As ice bubbles burst, anyone nearby can hear crackling and popping, said Glowacki, a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Using hydrophones, he and other scientists now can make more nuanced measurements of how a changing climate sounds underwater, from the groans, creaks and splashes of a calving iceberg to the changes in whale songs as the ocean warms.</p><p>Glowacki recently used a pair of hydrophones to study the underwater world of glaciers, publishing his findings in <a href="https://www.the-cryosphere.net/14/1025/2020/" target="_blank">The Cryosphere</a>. He and co-author Grant B. Deane measured glacier retreat by <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/melting-glaciers-sound-like-frying-bacon/" target="_blank">recording the sounds of ice</a> – from small chunks to enormous slabs – falling off the glacier and splashing into the water.</p><p>During the summer of 2016, Glowacki's team placed two hydrophones near Hansbreen Glacier in Hornsund Fjord, Svalbard. For a month and a half, they recorded sounds, also using three time-lapse cameras to collect images – including the "drop height" (how far the ice fell into the water) – so they could compare photos to the recordings. The team created a formula to represent the relationship between the size of a piece of ice falling from a glacier and the sound it makes underwater, also accounting for the pieces of ice falling from varying heights. (Hear an example of the sound an iceberg makes while calving <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-248456662/iceberg-calving-hansbreen-glacier" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unlocking Information About Antarctic Ice Shelf<p>Other researchers also are using hydrophones to learn more about crumbling glaciers. Bob Dziak, research oceanographer with the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory <a href="https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics" target="_blank">acoustics research group</a>, captured a massive calving event of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica with a hydrophone. He published the results with colleagues in <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00183/full" target="_blank">Frontiers in Earth Science</a></p><p>On April 7, 2016, satellite images showed a massive calving event had occurred on the ice shelf. The paper described it as the "first large scale calving event in >30 years."</p><p>However, once Dziak and colleagues delved into the data from three hydrophones deployed 60 kilometers east of the ice shelf, they uncovered a series of "icequakes" from January to early March 2016. He and other researchers believe that much of the ice actually broke free in mid-January to February, but it remained in the same location until an April storm – which their paper described as the "largest low-pressure storm recorded in the previous seven months" – broke the ice free.</p><p>"We suspected that the icebergs broke apart but remained in place – kind of pinned in place – until a major storm with high winds passed through the area and, finally, it was that last push that pushed the icebergs out to sea," Dziak says.</p><p>He and his co-authors wrote that "fortuitous timing and proximity of the hydrophone deployment presented a rare opportunity to study cryogenic signals and ocean ambient sounds of a large-scale ice shelf calving and iceberg formation event."</p>
Listening to Songs of Humpback Whales<p><a href="https://www.mbari.org/" target="_blank">Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute</a> studies the ocean, including its acoustics. One of the institute's projects involves examining the soundscape of California's Monterey Bay, including sounds from animals, humans, weather, and geologic processes like earthquakes. The researchers once even recorded an under-sea landslide. They also focus on recording and analyzing the <a href="http://www.mbari.org/humpback-song/" target="_blank">songs of humpback whales</a>. Male humpback whales' songs can be over 15 minutes in length, and they can be repeated for long periods of time – even hours. Listening to these songs and analyzing them can provide unique insights into the lives of these complex animals.</p><p>"Any time we want to study marine mammals, sound gives us a window into their lives because they use sound for all of their essential life activities, really," says institute biological oceanographer John Ryan. "Communication, foraging, reproduction, navigation – depending on the species, of course."</p><p>Previously, scientists had thought singing occurred only during courtship and mating, but now they think whales may also use song while migrating and hunting. They know song has a crucial role in the whales' lives.</p><p>"There's a whole other dimension to humpback whale song," Ryan says. "It is a mode of cultural transmission in this species. They learn songs from each other. They share songs as a population, and when populations mix and mingle, they learn new ideas, they explore with their song, improvise, and it's a real essential part of their culture."</p>
By William S. Lynn, Arian Wallach and Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila
A number of conservationists claim cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity that need to be removed from the outdoors by "any means necessary" – coded language for shooting, trapping and poisoning. Various media outlets have portrayed cats as murderous superpredators. Australia has even declared an official "war" against cats.
Faulty Scientific Reasoning<p>In our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13527" target="_blank">most recent publication</a> in the journal Conservation Biology, we examine an error of reasoning that props up the moral panic over cats.</p><p>Scientists do not simply collect data and analyze the results. They also establish a logical argument to explain what they observe. Thus, the reasoning behind a factual claim is equally important to the observations used to make that claim. And it is this reasoning about cats where claims about their threat to global biodiversity founder. In our analysis, we found it happens because many scientists take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large.</p><p>Even when specific studies are good overall, projecting the combined "results" onto the world at large can cause unscientific overgeneralizations, particularly when <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.003" target="_blank">ecological context is ignored</a>. It is akin to pulling a quote out of context and then assuming you understand its meaning.</p>
Ways Forward<p>So how might citizens and scientists chart a way forward to a more nuanced understanding of cat ecology and conservation?</p><p>First, those examining this issue on all sides can acknowledge that both the well-being of cats and the survival of threatened species are legitimate concerns.</p><p>Second, cats, like any other predator, affect their ecological communities. Whether that impact is good or bad is a complex value judgment, not a scientific fact.</p><p>Third, there is a need for a more rigorous approach to the study of cats. Such an approach must be mindful of the importance of ecological context and avoid the pitfalls of faulty reasoning. It also means resisting <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13126" target="_blank">the siren call of a silver (lethal) bullet</a>.</p>
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