Movie Night

No Impact Man - by Colin Beavan

Colin Beavan and his family decided to take a twelve month break from their fairly typical middle class New York life, and try to make their environmental impact as low as they could for a year.

They got rid of the TV, turned off the electricity, stopped using escalators and lifts, no cars or trains, no processed or fast food, no meat or fish, no packaging, no waste and ultimately no toilet paper !

The film is funny and honest in discussing many of the conflicting motivations and contradictions – is the family just ‘playing’ at simple living, is it all just clever marketing for his book and film, surely no one will be persuaded by his extreme experiment, isn’t this just about projecting his own guilt onto the audience ?

In the end the real value of the film is that it makes us question our own way of life, and our underlying values. Will having organic milk in our coffee or getting a water butt for the garden really save the world, is are we going to have to make far more radical changes to our lives ? Living our lives the same way as Colin and his family do in this film isn’t really any kind of ‘solution’, but they are trying, and at the end have much more of a personal road map. [Amazon]


The End of Poverty ? - by Philippe Diaz

The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation was set-up in the US in the 1920s to raise awareness and promote actions towards issues of economic justice. In 2007 the Foundation decided to produce a documentary film about the underlying causes of global poverty, and the role played by Western economies.

The film’s producer Philippe Diaz presents the case that in order to maintain our standard of life, the rich world has systematically controlled and limited the development of the world’s poorer countries, with the policies of the World Bank and IMF effectively keeping billions in poverty.

Presenting the lives of the global poor on our screens, along with a series of shocking facts concerning life expectancy, deaths from starvation, the lack of clean water or even basic medical care, makes the film powerful and intensely challenging, especially when contrasting this with the lives of many in the rich world.

The film also argues strongly that unless we change the structures which create poverty, aid, no matter how well meaning, will ultimately be ineffective in lifting the world’s poor out of poverty. [Amazon]

 

The Vanishing of the Beesby Holly Mosher

The Vanishing of the Bees by Holly Mosher, describes the phenomena of honey bee colony collapse disorder - the dramatic rise is sudden, unexplained honey bee colony deaths around the planet since around 2006. A vital pollinator, honey bees are crucial for the effective production of a wide range of agricultural crops in many parts of the world.

The film follows two commercial bee keepers Hackenberg and Mendes, as they explore the causes of colony collapse disorder, travelling across the world in their attempt to find answers.

The film explains well that the sudden decline in bee numbers appears to result from a combination of factors and doesn’t claim to have definitive proof, but it especially points a finger at the widespread use of neo-nicitinoid pesticides, and the effects of monoculture styles of agriculture. [Amazon]

Photo by Espensorvick, via Flickr

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Meet Julia Butterfly Hill

A new series of ‘Meet….’ articles focussing on a diverse range of individuals, who are all currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Julia Butterfly Hill is an environmental champion and activist. She became what many people would describe as an ‘eco-warrior’, after re-evaluating her life following a near fatal car accident in which pieces of steering wheel entered her skull.

Julia spent over two years living 180 feet off the ground, in the branches of a 1500 year old Californian Giant Redwood Tree, called Luna. The tree was to be felled by the Pacific Lumber Company, but eventually after two years of Julia’s ‘tree-occupation’ they agreed to leave the tree unfelled, as well as a surrounding 200m buffer zone.

Julia wrote about her time living in the tree, in her book The Legacy of Luna, which is currently being adapted into a film. She continues to champion various environmental and social justice causes, works as a motivational speaker and has helped found the What’s Your Tree Project and the Engage Network, which helps various activist organisations maximise their impact. She also blogs regularly, and maintains a public Facebook page.

“The steering wheel in my head, both figuratively and literally, steered me in a new direction in my life … As I recovered, I realized that my whole life had been out of balance … I had been obsessed by my career, success and material things. The crash woke me up to the importance of the moment, and doing whatever I could to make a positive impact on the future.”

 

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Photo from Julia’s website

Nature Deficit Disorder

Guest post by Maggie, who works as a writer for a reading glasses provider specializing in computer glasses. With an educational background in science, she enjoys staying abreast of the latest health and medical news and sharing that information; her latest project, The Eye Health Guide. Outside of work Maggie spends her time trying new restaurants, staying active, and traveling.

I think it’s safe to agree that children don’t spend adequate time outdoors.

For many families, video games, computer programs, and cell phones have quickly become the preferred methods of entertainment; the days of parents coercing their children to come inside for dinner are few and far between.  One expert found the consequences of this shift towards indoor child rearing to be so severe, that he named a new condition to describe the effects.

Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) was a term (not a medical condition) coined by author Richard Louv to describe our society’s waning relationship to the environment. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Louv discusses his concerns, noting that we’ve entered a period of suburban sprawl that limits outdoor play and encourages a plugged-in culture that attracts children indoors. Remember when children used to ride their bikes or walk to school? Today, the family piles in to the SUV and treks across town to school, playing video games all the way.

Some children adapt to the increased screen-viewing time and overstimulation that comes with these “gadgets”, but those who do not often develop NDD symptoms, like attention problems, obesity, anxiety, and depression.

What’s the Deal?

So is this really something that parents should be concerned about ?

According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, today’s children may be the first generation at risk of having a shorter lifespan then their parents. This fact should be enough to raise suspicions about the way we raise our children—something’s flawed.

Studies have linked NDD to behavioral problems including aggression and short-tempers, likely due to children spending increased time in confined spaces and the continual use of electronic devices. These behavioral issues can make educational progress difficult as they can lead to classroom interruptions.

Other studies have connected nature and behavior, discovering that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder need regular contact with nature to remain focused. In his book, Louv states, “We have to start looking at nature therapy” instead of, or as a compliment to, pharmaceutical drugs.

Finally, approximately 16% of U.S. children aged 6-19 are overweight or obese. The number of diagnoses of children suffering from chronic conditions—like asthma and diabetes—has grown dramatically and may lead to poor health in adulthood. Is it a coincidence that these numbers have grown as outdoor time and general physical activity have decreased?

How Do I Prevent NDD?

In the wake of this new research, some states launched programs to get students outdoors. In 2008 the US government began the “No Child Left Inside” initiative which provides information on NDD and funding for incorporating nature into education.

Parents must also make an effort to decrease their children’s screen-time and encourage them to head outdoors. A few tips include:

  • Follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming (television, video games) a day.  Replace the time that would have been spent in front of a screen with an outdoor activity.
  • Reevaluate your children’s schedules. Many kids are so overscheduled with structured activities that there is no time to play outdoors.
  • Overcome “stranger danger.” Locking your kids indoors will harm their imagination and health. Controlling risk is the key. Go outdoors with your kids, but allow them explore unaccompanied.
  • Develop an appreciation for nature in your children. Teach them about our limited natural resources and start recycling in your home. Plant a garden and explain the benefits of your home-grown, organic fruits and veggies. Enroll them in nature-centered camps for a real “wilderness” experience.

Raising children to enjoy outdoor time and who appreciate the environment will ensure that your children grow to be environmentally savvy adults who will share the knowledge with their own children one day.

For more information on Nature Deficit Disorder, head to the No Child Left Inside website.

Photo by Miles.Wolstenhome, via Flickr

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The Rarest Creature in the World

Lonsome George is an endling - the last surviving member of a species, or sub-species, and upon whose death extinction takes place.

George is the last known individual of the Pinta Island Tortoise, from the Galapagos Islands. He currently lives in the Charles Darwin Research Station, and is thought to be around a hundred years old. He is often described as the rarest creature in the world.

There are estimated to have been 250,000 giant Galapagos tortoises on the islands before the arrival of man. Hunting and habitat clearance reduced the numbers to just a few thousand by 1970. Conservation efforts in recent decades have produced a modest recovery of several subspecies, unfortunately for George, not his.

When George dies and the Pinta Island tortoise finally becomes extinct, it will join a long list of species driven to extinction by humans. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to be the last.

MODERN EXTINCTIONS

Thylacine (1936)

Pig Footed Bandicoot (1950s)

Mexican Grizzly Bear (1964)

Imperial Woodpecker (probably 1950s)

Japanese Sealion (1974)

Caspian Tiger (1980s)

Pyrenean Ibex (2000)

Yangtze River Dolphin (probably 2007)

Western Black Rhino (2011)

 

Photo by from Wikipedia

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The End of Coral Reefs ?

Coral reefs are remarkable ecosystems, home to over 25% of the world’s known marine species, providing valuable tourism income, and even more crucially, vital food to remote fishing communities around the world – coral reef fisheries support around 275 million people, many with few alternative sources of food.

But coral reefs across the world are dying – being destroyed by a combination of local and global impacts.

Overfishing, pollution and rising ocean temperatures and increasing levels of dissolved carbon dioxide are progressively causing coral bleaching and subsequent death.

Several authorities suggest that very few healthy reefs will be left by 2030, and virtually none by 2050, unless the world manages to control both local and global threats to these valuable, but vulnerable ecosystems.

 

Photo from USFWS, via Flickr