Wednesday, May 6, 2020

3359. Planet of the Humans: A Discussion Piece from an Activist in Sonoma County, California

By Linda Swartz, May 6, 2020
Mr. and Ms. Smith go on vacation (location, highway 116 east close to highway 101, Sonoma County, California). Photo: Kamran Nayeri

Editor's note: The documentary Planet of the Humans has generated much needed discussion in the climate justice m0vement in the U.S. Linda Swartz is a climate justice movement activit in Sonoma County, California, and a member of a coalition of activists in the county. She posted the following article about Planet of the Humans on the listserv for the group. It is published her with her permission.  KN

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I’m weighing in on the discussion of Michael Moore’s movie, “Planet of The Humans. “ While I do think that the film deserves most of the criticism leveled at it by many of the people discussing it here, I have to agree with the one person who said they thought it was designed to make environmentalists really think carefully.  It prompted me to wonder if I could safely assume that every environmental group and it’s leaders were standing up for sound practices that protect the planet and are aligned with what we say we believe, and what is borne out by scientific study. I am still looking more carefully into the groups I have supported, particularly their stances on biomass.  Sometime this past year, I remember reading an article in the “Redwood Needles” asking members to write to California legislators about the hazards of this practice, so I was surprised to see in the movie that the Sierra Club might be promoting biomass as a sustainable energy alternative.  When I looked up their policies, it appears to me that this organization thankfully, does NOT. I am still researching NRDC, The Nature Conservancy, and other groups that the movie listed as aligned with biomass companies.  It will be important to note whether they have changed their policies, and also who their financial partners were and are now.  It’s important to make the distinction between then and now, or we risk the same errors Moore and Gibbs made in basing their criticisms of alternative energies on outdated practices and information!

I think it’s important to note that some environmentalists and groups have avoided discussing overpopulation, as if bringing up that subject automatically makes one a racist or proponent of Eugenics.  I do not think that is a fair accusation.  I really appreciate Cathy Cowan Becker’s more nuanced take on Drawdown’s recommendations to educate girls, empower women and work to provide women everywhere with reproductive care as the most sane and practical way to address this issue. There has been plenty of research to back this up.  

The other critical point that several writers made was that this film could be seen as a wake up call to people who believe that we can rely on better technology to avert the imminent (sooner or later) disaster we could be facing.  As Terry H pointed out, it appears likely that no matter how we produce our energy, our current levels of consumption are unsustainable, not just based upon our habits here in the U. S., but the changing habits of people worldwide as they “move up the food chain.” Terry H and C C Becker both mentioned that we need to change the way we measure our economic health and the “progress of mankind.”  I agree that Naomi Klein’s recent books This Changes Everything and On Fire eloquently address these issues as they ask us to consider how our current economic system puts profits over people, and undermines the very well being of our underlying support system, and how our political system is entrenched in the status quo and steeped in denial, even when economic solutions are at hand that could make life much better for us all.   

For a look at what we are facing worldwide, I highly recommend two books by Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute and pioneer of global environmentalism. World On The Edge examines the challenges we face and concentrates on four major components of a plan that could lead us to a sustainable future, and Full Planet, Empty Plates is a comprehensive analysis of the new geopolitics of food scarcity, which we can only address by working together worldwide. This book is esteemed by E. O. Wilson, another environmental hero who in his book Half Earth, maintains that if we are to save what remains of our plant and animal diversity on this planet, we must begin to set aside huge tracts of land and waters which are are totally protected from development.  Another “must read” in my mind is Spiritual Ecology:  The Cry of the Earth, a collection of essays by Joanna Macy, Wendell Berry, Vandana Shiva and others.  These beautifully written pieces tell us that finding solutions to climate change, species depletion, pollution, ocean acidification, and other issues we face will require us to remember the sacred nature of creation and how this affects our relationship to the environment.  

My takeaway from the end of this movie was that it did not place blame on alternative energy technologies, but on the wanton destruction of our environment in the name of economic “progress” and human betterment.   As tragic as it was, it was a fitting reminder that just because we cannot see the long-term consequences of our actions, we are not exonerated from our responsibilities to other living beings. They are depending on us now, and we can’t save ourselves unless we save them first.

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