A dusty afternoon on a South American field: The farmers pick vegetables, cut branches and complete other tasks. The very youngest children are tied to the backs of their mothers, and even those who are not old enough to help regard the daily wear and tear of curious eyes. From cradle to grave, these people work on food production and farming – at the same time they belong to one of the most distressed and starved populations in the world. Like theirs in several African countries and in India, they are forced to grow food for export – which binds them to a life of freedom and disease.
The bloody injustice
The Canadian-Swiss double production The Dispossessed og dispossession by Mathieu Roy illustrates the painful, cyclical reality in which hunger, debt and distress are plagued. Awkwardly, the filmmaker evokes a sense of isolation and suffocation when he shows us these workers who are struggling to the breaking point or simply breaking down due to illness. Roy's anger at the decline of these communities as a result of the introduction of modern farming practices is catching on. The director documents the consequences of the physical environment workers must move in, such as the damaging effects of having to spend the day out on toxic tobacco fields. The public soon realizes that protective measures and regulations we ourselves take for granted, which could have also secured the rights and health of the poor, are a privilege – even a luxury – reserved for Western countries. As one of the interview subjects in the film confirms, there is a war going on – which, rather than with weapons, is fought through the economy
Hope in technology
Perhaps the solution lies in science – that our biological and technical engineering will soon give us the technology that can lift the economic and physical yoke from human shoulders. Canadian Matthieu Rytz 'documentary Anote's Ark is just exploring technology development's relevance to the world of the future. The film pursues the idea of a Japanese-designed aquatic protection system that can withstand waves – thus saving the island state of the Caribbean from drowning in the Pacific. The country, a republic of 33 islands and atolls, is in danger of being swallowed up by the rising sea, and is therefore, not surprisingly, one of the strongest drivers of global climate change action.
Well helped by movies like dispossession og Anote's Ark the global environmental crisis, as a social and political battle, is beginning to gain momentum.
By the end of this century, the island state would have disappeared if development were not stopped. The most common (and not particularly reassuring) advice the Kiribati people get is to move to another location – but the fact is that even the plane tickets are too expensive for many of the residents. Moreover, such a solution would cost millions of dollars. "This is an act of war that we are unable to answer," said the archipelago's former president Anote Tong, citing the indifference of the unaffected states.
To be or not to be
It seems logical that the massive destruction of the globe's environment can only be stopped by mobilizing political will, establishing international cooperation – and sacrificing significant benefits. Both films mentioned suggest that if humanity really stands in the midst of a struggle for the survival of its species – then we also live in a world where all nations must ally with each other. However, the documentaries at this year's Visions du Réel festival show that much remains to be done before such collaborative solutions can be realized.
The world's exploitation of agricultural workers, the indifference to global warming and its consequences for third world countries, as well as a world economy based on gross exploitation of the poor, clearly show that er a war in progress – a war of money, power and knowledge.
Well helped by movies like dispossession og Anote's Ark the global environmental crisis, as a social and political battle, is beginning to gain momentum, but the extent to which "we" can be saved by technology and international cooperation depends a great deal on the degree of prosperity, power and influence. Even in agricultural lands where resources are nothing but fertile, polluted land, people need the power of the nation-state to get protective legislation – but the nation-state is in turn subject to and constrained by global economic trends.
Eco-philosophy as a Western invention
Environmental issues have different meanings for different people, which is reflected in the way they are addressed from place to place: in liberal versus conservative media; in scientific versus economic journals The majority of the world's population can therefore be said to lack a common desire to solve the environmental crisis. The activists' demands for action are not only counteracted by conservative parties, the media and Western companies (who, for profit's sake, often dismiss the whole issue); Also, third world countries consider the claims as unfair and prevent them from gaining their share of industrial growth. Interestingly, environmental philosophy is also being combated by these countries' intellectuals, who see it as a liberal, Western mindset that ignores the reality of workers in other parts of the world.
Above all, environmental issues are rarely recognized in economic journals – and once this happens, the climate crisis is portrayed as solvable within the framework of a well-functioning market.
Market unsuitable tools
As long as the various organizations, classes and other sections of society have different levels of power, the idea of a joint response to the environmental crisis becomes problematic. Both dispossession og Anote's Ark makes it clear that social development takes place on the basis of the economy: it is what all other parts of society are governed by. If a societal problem appears relevant, it must probably be presented primarily as an economic problem.
Best results are obtained through demands for concrete action. The market is proving to be a very suitable tool in the regulation of economic, social and political activity – despite widespread claims to the contrary.
If a societal problem appears relevant, it must probably be presented primarily as an economic problem.
The explanation may be that solving the climate crisis through the market involves the use of principles that initially caused the crisis. Evaluating nature on the basis of its yield value – as a commodity – is rooted in something fundamental in the relationship between nature and man, both of which are degraded when natural resources are regarded solely as capital, and man's creative potential only as labor for buying and selling.
The "logic" in this way of thinking hides an irrational system where goods are produced not only for consumption but also for profit – and therefore compels companies to find ever-new markets. This is how the predation on nature continues, and so communities are created where inequality only increases.
Sadly, it also hides the opportunity to create a better world for all.