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.
A PROFOUND WORK OF CLIMATE JOURNALISM<p>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. <em>The Condor & The Eagle</em> is both a profound work of climate journalism and an exhilarating, emotional adventure film."<br></p>
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"<p>Indigenous leaders, environmental groups (including Amazon Watch, Sierra Club, Extinction Rebellion), divestment and interfaith coalitions (including Interfaith Power and Light, Unitarian Universalists) are <a href="https://thecondorandtheeagle.com/events/" target="_blank">hosting impressive online events</a>, 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.</p> <p>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.</p>
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<p>Since its premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival in October 2019, <em>The Condor & the Eagle</em> 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.<br></p> <p>The film's international release date is set for Wednesday, July 1, and it will be available for rent on the <a href="https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/the-condor-and-the-eagle/" target="_blank">Films For Action</a> website. That day also marks the film's Latin American premiere with "<a href="https://event.webinarjam.com/register/93/xyg1yuw9?fbclid=IwAR2pNe5jKZJ3jXlmHROc8ifD1JtxQkKNG1QB2xx41WST7XrL7knai_kGnHU" target="_blank">Defending the Defenders of the Mother Earth / Defendiendo las Defensoras de la Madre Tierra</a>," a bilingual screening event featuring Bertha "Bertita" Zúñiga Cáceres of Honduras, daughter of the environmental martyr Berta Cáceres, and the director, among others.</p>
A MESSAGE FROM THE FILMMAKERS<p>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.</p><p>"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, <a href="https://www.esperanzaproject.com/2020/native-american-culture/the-condor-the-eagle-takes-flight/" target="_blank"><em>The Condor & The Eagle' Takes Flight</em></a>. "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."<br></p><p>You can support the team impact work <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=W44L44WM4ELDW&source=url" target="_blank">HERE</a>.</p>
By Dana Nuccitelli
Environmentalists and renewable energy advocates have long been allies in the fight to keep unchecked industrial growth from irreversibly ruining Earth's climate and threatening the future of human civilization. In their new YouTube documentary "Planet of the Humans," director Jeff Gibbs and producer Michael Moore argue for splitting the two sides. Their misleading, outdated, and scientifically sophomoric dismissal of renewable energy is perhaps the most dangerous form of climate denial, eroding support for renewable energy as a critical climate solution.
A Badly Outdated Portrait of Solar and Wind<p>In an interview with Reuters, Michael Moore summarized the premise of the film: "I assumed solar panels would last forever. I didn't know what went into the making of them."</p><p>It's true. Solar panels and wind turbines don't last forever (though they do last several decades), and like every other industrial product, they require mining and manufacturing of raw materials. Sadly, that's about as deep as the film delves into quantifying the environmental impacts of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. In fact, the misinformation in the film is at times much worse than ignorance.</p><p>In one scene, author and film co-producer Ozzie Zehner falsely asserts, "You use more fossil fuels [manufacturing renewables infrastructure] than you're getting benefit from. You would have been better off burning the fossil fuels in the first place instead of playing pretend."</p><p><span></span>That's monumentally wrong. A <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-footprints" target="_blank">2017 study in Nature Energy</a> found that when accounting for manufacturing and construction, the lifetime carbon footprints of solar, wind, and nuclear power are about 20 times smaller than those of coal and natural gas, even when the latter include expensive carbon capture and storage technology. The energy produced during the operation of a solar panel and wind turbine is 26 and 44 times greater than the energy needed to build and install them, respectively. There are many life-cycle assessment studies arriving at similar conclusions.</p>
A Shallow Dismissal of Electric Vehicles<p>In another science, Gibbs travels to a General Motors facility in Lansing, Michigan, circa 2010, as GM showcased its then-new Chevy Volt plug-in electric hybrid vehicle. Gibbs interviews a representative from the local municipal electric utility provider, who notes that they generate 95% of their supply by burning coal, and that the power to charge the GM facility's EVs will not come from renewables in the near future.</p><p>That is the full extent of the discussion of EVs in the film. Viewers are left to assume that because these cars are charged by burning coal, they're just <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing" target="_blank">greenwashing</a>. In reality, because of the high efficiency of electric motors, an electric car charged entirely by burning coal still produces less carbon pollution than an internal combustion engine car (though more than a hybrid). The U.S. Department of Energy has <a href="https://afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_emissions.html" target="_blank">a useful tool</a> for comparing carbon emissions between EVs, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, and gasoline-powered cars for each state. In Michigan, on average, EVs are the cleanest option of all, as is the case for the national average power grid. In West Virginia, with over 90% electricity generated from coal, hybrids are the cleanest option, but EVs are still cleaner than gasoline cars.</p><p>In short, EVs are an improvement over gasoline-powered cars everywhere, and their carbon footprints will continue to shrink as renewables expand to supply more of the power grid.</p>
A Valid Critique of Wood Biomass<p>The film devotes a half hour to the practice of burning trees for energy. That's one form of biomass, which also includes burning wood waste, garbage, and biofuels. Last year, <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=427&t=3" target="_blank">1% of U.S. electricity</a> was generated by burning wood, but it accounted for 30% of the film run time.</p><p>In fairness, Europe is a different story, where wood biomass accounts for around 5% of electricity generation, and which imports a lot of wood chips from America. It's incentivized because the European Union considers burning wood to be carbon neutral, and it can thus be used to meet climate targets. That's because new trees can be planted to replace those removed, and the EU assumes the wood being burned would have decayed and released its stored carbon anyway.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/3/4/18216045/renewable-energy-wood-pellets-biomass" target="_blank">numerous problems</a> with those assumptions, one of which is unavoidable: time. Burning trees is close to carbon neutral once a replacement tree grows to sufficient maturity to recapture the lost carbon, but that takes many decades. In the meantime, the carbon released into the atmosphere accelerates the climate crisis at a time when slashing emissions is increasingly urgent. That's why <a href="https://www.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Scientist-Letter-to-Governor-Cooper_11-15_2017.pdf" target="_blank">climate scientists are increasingly calling on policymakers</a> to stop expanding this practice. So has 350.org founder Bill McKibben since 2016, <a href="https://350.org/response-planet-of-the-humans-documentary/" target="_blank">despite his depiction in the film</a> as a villainous proponent of clearcutting forests to burn for energy.</p><p>It's complicated, but the carbon footprint of biomass <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/is-burning-wood-for-energy-worse-for-the-climate-than-coal" target="_blank">depends on where the wood comes from</a>. Burning waste (including waste wood) as biomass that would decay anyway is justifiable, but also generally only practical at a relatively small scale. A more detailed investigation of the wood biomass industry could make for a worthwhile documentary. It's still a small-time player, but it does need to stay that way.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Gibbs asks, "Is it possible for machines made by industrial civilization to save us from industrial civilization?"</p><p>Why not? Industrial civilization has a non-zero climate and environmental footprint, but the impact of green technologies like EVs, wind turbines, and solar panels is much smaller than the alternatives. They represent humanity's best chance to avoid a climate catastrophe.</p><p>The filmmakers call for an end to limitless economic growth and consumption. It's difficult to envision that goal being achieved anytime soon, but even if it is, human civilization will continue to exist and require energy. To avert a climate crisis, that energy must be supplied by the clean renewable technologies pilloried in the film. To expand on the earlier analogy, the filmmakers seem to believe we should improve nutrition not by eating healthier foods like strawberries, but rather by eating a bit less cheesecake.</p><p>Like Fox News and other propaganda vehicles, the film presents one biased perspective via carefully chosen voices, virtually all of whom are comfortable white men. It applies an environmental purity test that can seem convincing for viewers lacking expertise in the topic. Any imperfect technology – which is every technology – is deemed bad. It's a clear example of the perfect being the enemy of the good. In reality, this movie is the enemy of humanity's last best chance to save itself and countless other species from unchecked climate change through a transition to cleaner technologies.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Daisy Simmons
"It's not easy to watch."
That was a recurring introductory remark at screenings during the recent 2020 Wild & Scenic Film Festival. Held each year in the bucolic foothills of the Sierra, the five-day festival screens more than 140 environmental films, from artful meditations on the beauty of nature, to distressing stories of people on the frontlines of climate change.
Seven Films to Add to Your Climate Watchlist<p>There were too many standouts at the 18th annual environmental film festival to list here, including several "Yuby Award" winners (named in honor of the Yuba River, which the festival was launched to help protect). Following are a few highlights that exemplify the human impact of climate change, in alphabetical order:</p>
After the Fire (18 min. documentary, see trailer below)<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/255336063" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0fd19d6b9ff2252b855909b406b4234c"></iframe><p>For some, Sonoma Valley is the glamorous wine-studded landscape we see in movies. But for real-world residents, it's just home – or, it used to be, before the recent fires destroyed their own homes. This film follows several locals as they try to rebuild not just a home but a life. For example, there's the young immigrant mom struggling to find work, because the restaurants where she'd normally work have no customers. There's the senior sculptor who's lost his life's work, along with all his family heirlooms. The only thing he has left from his mother is a potted hibiscus plant, which he nurtures tenderly. Skyrocketing rents plague both their efforts. The sculptor must move in with his daughter, and the young mother says she's had to choose between rent and food. Neither is alone: "We're all scared, whether or not we have our papers," says the mom. This is a story of loss, but also of resilience – as evidenced perhaps best by the hibiscus not just once, when it miraculously survives the fire, but again later when, with care, it begins to bloom again.</p>
Blowout: Inside America’s Energy Gamble (79 min. documentary, see trailer below)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="350d9c79032c3e3032e8ac460abb9e82"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VsqEw2NTf5g?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>"We're the sacrifice zone," says a resident of Port Arthur, Texas, where soaring cancer rates have been linked to nearby oil, gas, and petrochemical development. From there, through the Panama Canal and across Asia, the film connects global oil and gas activity to human life around the world. From a family displaced by sea-level rise in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to one considering moving from hurricane-soaked Panama City, Florida, Blowout packs in data of rising emissions and temperatures without sacrificing the human side of the equation.</p><p>Available to watch online at Amazon Prime, Fire TV, Roku, Vizio, and Apple TV.</p>
The Condor and the Eagle (82 min. documentary, see trailer below)<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/359405536" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="26cbdafacf8c3d5f17874b62c39ba2dd"></iframe><p>Punctuated by vivid animation and music, this film opens with an old prophecy, one that's been recorded by indigenous communities across the Western hemisphere: "When the eagle of the North and the condor of the South fly together, the spirit of the land will reawaken." Now, as the 21st century unfolds, we see four indigenous environmental leaders helping bring this prophecy to life, working to reduce the impacts of oil and gas production across great distances, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the Amazonian jungles of Ecuador. They come together at global climate summits and marches, returning with new insight to work in their own communities. Their work ranges from crusading against "environmental genocide" in the Amazon, to fighting toxic emissions in a Texas town where too many kids are growing up with asthma and leukemia. It's an onerous journey, but by sharing traditional wisdom and conviction, these leaders offer hope to communities well outside their own domain.</p>
Last Call for the Bayou: Five Stories from Louisiana’s Disappearing Coastline (53 min. documentary, see trailer below)<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/323350759" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b58fc4a363ae53a8ee51f7a29f79b15"></iframe><p>Shot on location in the Louisiana delta, this film boasts a diverse crew of real-life characters, from the self-proclaimed "Duck Queen" fighting for wetland preservation and the mud-tasting scientist (yes, he actually nibbles mud as part of his testing), to the third generation shrimper who's running out of work, and the aerial photographer documenting environmental change. Each in their own way is grappling with Louisiana's diminishing wetlands — every hour an area the size of a football field is lost. Can they find a way to restore the coastline without sacrificing the local economy? Together, their stories show how sea-level rise is already threatening livelihoods. As the photographer ponders, hovering a thousand feet above the shrinking barrier islands in a jetpack, "One major hurricane and we'll all be looking for a new place to live."</p>
Lowland Kids (22 min. documentary, see trailer below)<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/282694564" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="45ec52f42c8f810244a89cdd4ca91294"></iframe><p>Coastal Louisiana's Isle de Jean Charles is sinking, creating the first climate refugees in the U.S. mainland. To go behind the headlines, the filmmakers introduce Howard and Juliette, aka "the last teenagers" on the island, and their uncle, who's raised them here since they were small children. They've each grown up enjoying freedom and peace here, from late-night alligator watching and water fights to quiet sunset conversations. And they're not looking forward to moving: The teenagers worry about what it will be like to have close neighbors. Chris, the uncle, has lived his whole life on the island, and mourns that "part of me will always be here, because this is where life began for me." Asked how he feels about being called one of the nation's first climate refugees, he says it's strange, and yet, with rising seas and the forced move upon him, admits he hasn't been able to find a better word.</p>
Mossville: When Great Trees Fall (75 min. documentary, see trailer below)<iframe src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/145085489" width="100%" height="480" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ad483840dc14a7b1d98ea86945e7c841"></iframe><p>Winner of the festival's Spirit of Activism award, this film explores the deeply troubling impacts of industrial petrochemical development in Mossville, Louisiana — a community founded in 1790 by ex-slave Jack Moss. For generations, people of color lived here in peace, geographically insulated from the rest of the Jim Crow South. Today, however, the southwestern Louisiana community has been "erased," replaced by massive petrochemical plants, including the nearly complete new multi-billion-dollar project projected to produce more greenhouse gases than anywhere else in the state. The toll has already been dire, with mechanic and father Stacey Ryan reporting he's lost most of his family to cancer and other health impacts he blames on the plants' toxic emissions. But the losses aren't over. The company behind the new plant has forced most residents to move out, and Ryan is unwilling to budge. The audience sees his home become a surreal holdout in an increasingly decimated landscape: The neighbors are all gone, as are their houses. His fenced-in yard is suddenly dwarfed by sprung-from-nowhere industrial roads and buildings. We watch as his power and water are shut off, his mailbox eerily poking into relentless truck traffic. And we watch as his health and vitality slowly decline, all because he refuses to give up the home his grandparents built for a plant whose greenhouse gas emissions stand to threaten far more than the homes that once surrounded it.</p>
The Story of Plastic (94 min. documentary, see trailer below)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5553e3cdc79672760b44a9baf19f2d96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/krhZmrDVv_k?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>When people think about plastic as a problem, they often think just about its end state: as waste carelessly strewn into the ocean, killing off seabirds and other creatures tragically having mistaken the inedible trash for food. But The Story of Plastic makes a strong case for rethinking that narrative. With global reporting, archival footage, and simple storyboard animation, this Yuby-winning film presents plastic as a primary contributor to climate change throughout its lifecycle, as a carefully orchestrated byproduct industry of oil and gas production. To lay out the global impact of plastic production, the film carries viewers across the U.S. South, to Belgium, Indonesia, India and China, exposing in each place the human and climate impacts of rapidly escalating plastic production and use.</p><p>Films about real-world people struggling with the effects of climate change may not be easy to watch. But as one filmmaker said in response to the comment that her film was sad, "I personally find these stories incredibly inspiring — there are a ton of people around the world working together to address these issues — and that gives me a lot of hope."</p><p><em>Note: Not all of the above films are available yet online. Keep an eye out for a local edition of the <a href="https://www.wildandscenicfilmfestival.org/on-tour/" target="_blank">Wild and Scenic On Tour</a> program, coming soon to roughly 250 events across the U.S.</em></p>
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- How an Environmental Justice Documentary Is Building Solidarity in the Midst of the Racial and Health Crisis - EcoWatch ›
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Big Data, Big Oil: Unveiling the 'Dark Forces' Behind Trump’s 2020 Reelection Campaign With Josh Fox
By Reynard Loki
Josh Fox, the Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Gasland, the documentary that started the global anti-fracking movement, is bringing a new message to audiences across the country with The Truth Has Changed, a live theater-based project that sounds the alarm on the right-wing disinformation campaign working to secure President Trump's reelection.
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By Tara Lohan
Prigi Arisandi, who founded the environmental group Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation, picks through a heap of worn plastic packaging in Mojokerto, Indonesia. Reading the labels, he calls out where the trash originated: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada. The logos range from Nestlé to Bob's Red Mill, Starbucks to Dunkin Donuts.
The trash of rich nations has become the burden of poorer countries.
By Eva Perroni
Film is an incredible tool for effecting change in the food system with its unique ability to educate, inspire and grow the movement for sustainable food and farming. Film can transport viewers to unseen territories, from Colombian coffee-growing regions to the bottom of the ocean, and unveil the stories, struggles and triumphs of those working in the hidden fabric of the food system.
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By Katie O'Reilly
Hollywood loves history. Awards season 2018, after all, is buzzing with films that explore world wars, arms races, governmental and Olympic scandals. For those environmentalists who get behind the camera, however, the silver screen becomes an avenue to engage audiences in the issues, threats and hopeful developments shaping their children's future. In spite of the rapidly changing and increasingly fragmented media landscape, cinema remains a powerful tool for swiftly transforming lay viewers into impassioned advocates and activists. That's why the volunteers laboring to protect the Sierra Nevada's Yuba watershed launched the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in 2003.
The recent documentary, Sea of Life, exposes key threats to the oceans, and calls for action.
Sea of Life follows filmmaker Julia Barnes on a three year adventure, spanning seven countries, to save coral reefs.
Although they cover less than 1 percent of the sea floor coral reefs support up to 30 percent of all species in the ocean at some stage in their life cycles. Often referred to as the rainforests of the ocean, coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet. They're also an indicator for the future of the oceans and all life on Earth.
I have asked repeatedly to have my short interview clip removed from this film. The director refuses. He believes his film is fair and balanced. I do not.
I am often interviewed (see media) and hardly ever quoted incorrectly or out of context. This film is one of those rare exceptions.
By Josh Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell
Good Fortune is the rags to riches tale of conscious capitalism pioneer John Paul DeJoria. Born with nothing, at times homeless on the streets of LA, DeJoria spent a good portion of his early adulthood in and out of motorcycle gangs only to wheel and deal his way to the top of a vast hair and tequila empire. Yet DeJoria's motto is "Success unshared is failure," a pioneering philosophy that promotes the triple bottom line—people, planet and profit.
By Cyrus Sutton
Island Earth is the story of a young indigenous scientist's journey through both sides of the GMO battle in Hawaii. Groomed to work for Monsanto, Cliff Kapono had a lot to consider over the past few years. His ancestral ways of farming fed a similar population than what inhabits the island today with some of the most advanced biodynamic farming ever documented. Yet one of his most lucrative job options would be for a company promising to "feed the world."