Monday, 29 August 2011

FILM: A Shared Earth?

The Earth is our home, the only place we have. But, as the film "Home", which is presented in full below (93 minutes approx - please click through to Youtube), powerfully demonstrates, it is in deep peril because of our activities. As a result of our desperately wasteful use and destruction of our resources, our unfair distribution of the planet's wealth, and the global warming that is driven by our ludicrous release of massive quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, our only living environment is at serious risk of becoming uninhabitable.

"Home", directed by French photographer and environmentalist, Yann Arthus-Bertrand, is beautifully filmed. It is as fine an exposition as could be made of how our planet works, how life evolved and how human activities have severely damaged the delicate balance between air, water and life, to the point that our ability to survive socially and even biologically is now in imminent jeopardy.

Arthus-Bertrand's profession as an aerial photographer is evident throughout and the rich colours and sweeping visual panoramas give "Home" a stunning impact, reinforcing both the beauty of our Earth and the dangers it faces. Yet it merely hints at some of the real issues driving the problems - it notes that 20% of the population of the world use 80% of its resources; 2% of the population own over 50% of the wealth; and half of the world's poorest people live in resource rich countries - but it avoids any consideration of how or why these iniquities have come about. There is some sacrifice of accuracy for image too - for example, one scene on over-fishing shows African fishermen standing round a pile of fish, almost implying it is their fault - there is no mention of huge factory ships from industrialised nations that can take more fish in a single catch than some Pacific nations manage in an entire year (for more click here). "Home" touches on the need for greater sharing of resources, but it fails to explain how, nor does it examine or expose the system - capitalist free markets - that has driven us to where we are, the edge of our own extinction.

This is perhaps not entirely unsurprising - because in the very first frame, a range of corporate logos drift into view - Gucci, YSL, Puma and others - the subsidiaries of the conglomerate PPR, which financed the film. The logos twist and turn to form the film's title, a highly counter-productive intro which belies the powerful content of the production. Yet whatever their motive, it is to PPR's credit that they funded this movie, which goes far beyond the flaccid muddle that was Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth". But by ducking the key issue of how to transition to a sustainable society, it represents only the first steps on a much longer journey.

There is not the space to continue that journey in full here, but within the Green movement, more and more are arguing that environmental sustainability and social justice are inextricably linked - if the planet's limited resources are to be stewarded sustainably, they need to be shared fairly, and capitalism simply cannot deliver this. Please see the review of Derek Wall's "Rise of the Green Left" (here) for one treatise on potential ways forward. Both he and others increasingly coalesce around the ideals of ecosocialism.

This term remains very broadly defined, but essentially values the sharing of resources, emphasises greater economic equality, and shifts resource ownership towards co-operatives and mutuals. It prizes long-term planning so we think about the next several generations of people as opposed to the next few years of shares dividends. By advocating legislative and social action to change our economics, ecosocialism begins to move towards a situation where, rather than being forever pushed to strive for, buy and consume "more", people can be genuinely and happily content with "enough".

Here are some links to ecosocialist blogs, websites and videos.

And here is "Home", our planet Earth.


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