Hope for the Future
I highly recommend this sweet doc that offers viewers both information and inspiration in the struggle to combat climate change and discover better practices and alternatives in our strive for sustainability. It kicks off with the brutal reminder that the planet is currently undergoing its 6th great extinction as a result of destructive industrial practices and human-perpetuated climate change. This planetary pressure is very real, very scary, and has tremendously devastating potential. As parents themselves, the filmmakers (you might recognize Melanie Laurent, a celebrated French actress who also starred in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds), go looking for hope for the future and share with the audience the various solutions that are currently underway.
The good news is that there are indeed solutions! While there is no single cure-all, much like the natural world itself, humanity’s salvation lies in a number of interconnected practices that each reinforce the other and work to re-establish our balance with the environment. As presented by the film, it will require effort in 4 crucial domains, namely: Food, Energy, Democracy, and Education. On the bright side, the movement to improve these areas is already underway.
Respect your food
The first topic covered by the film deals with what we eat, and the impact it has on our health and the planet. The documentary doesn’t go into depth with regards the pains and consequences of conventional practices, opting instead for visiting sites that exemplify solutions to our industrially grown food supplies. These include small urban farms and growers that practice permaculture and organic (fossil-free) farming techniques. They inform viewers that small farms currently feed the majority of world (70%), and that small organic farms can indeed satisfy the population demand without the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. I personally learned about this first-hand during my WOOFing experience, but there is even more supportive data and research out there now that further validates the greater benefits of organic farming.
Small, local organic farms can produce an abundant supply of food for cities, provide jobs and food security, and cut down on transportation and carbon emissions. These practices can (and do) help reduce waste, improve health, and have a positive social impact on communities. It’s pretty much a win-win-win. Of course, there are obstacles to these common sense solutions, and they are tied with some of the other topic categories.
Changing the Political Dynamics (It Can Be Done!)
As with other climate related problems, solutions do exist, rather it is the lack of political will that often disrupts progress and seeks to maintain the status quo. Why another critical element is the strengthening of our democratic institutions. This involves citizen engagement, and holding elected representatives accountable. The documentary shares the Icelandic example where, following the corruption induced economic crisis of 2009, citizens took to the streets and forced the government to resign. The developments in Iceland then took the democratic experience a step further by involving citizens to temporarily run the government (selected by lot) and help formulate a new constitution. Truly a fascinating example. As discussed in previous SM posts (saving democracy), it is the firm belief of yours truly that a strong democracy is vital for facing climate change and preventing ongoing environmental destruction.
Teaching for Tomorrow
One way of encouraging citizen engagement and learning the importance of environmental protection is through an effective education that provokes curiosity and trains young minds to think critically and with compassion and empathy. This is addressed in another category of the film (I’m following the same order as the doc), as the filmmakers visit Finland to learn how/why their method is so successful. Finland is consistently ranked number 1 in the world when it comes to education (although they themselves don’t do national rankings), and they’re happy to share their best practices with others.
Finally the last element of the interwoven solutions involves the renewable energy mix. This predicates the renouncement of fossil fuels, and requires that we all use what renewable energy sources are available to us, be it wind, solar, hydro-electric, or geothermal. To demonstrate this the filmmakers look to geothermal in Iceland or wind turbines in Denmark. Denmark is also an example of what needs to be done in conjunction with their quest for renewables (Copenhagen is vying for 100% renewable by 2025), and that is to use less energy. The city of Copenhagen helps alleviate its energy demand through the encouragement of alternative means of commuting such as cycling, walking, or using public transit.
The film does a great job or wrapping it all together and providing actual examples of hope as they share the stories of those who are taking action to improve their communities and help contribute towards our overall sustainability.