“TOMORROW (Demain)” (2015): People who care for the Earth and life

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Poster of the film.

Any person reasonably informed is aware of the most serious global menace to humanity: the planetary warming which is going to produce catastrophic climate changes in the form of droughts, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, disappearance of coastal cities, hunger, climate-related migrations (to be added to those driven by wars). A fearsome outlook. The two directors of Tomorrow began to work on it after reading a study published in the scientific magazine Nature in which a team of serious researchers informed that by 2100 a part of humankind would have disappeared because of lack of food and resources. They reacted by asking themselves if it is possible to life and act in ways different to the one who has led us to the edge of the abyss. It wasn’t a theoretical question requiring an abstract, discursive answer, but the urgent need to know if there are people in the world doing real, specific actions beneficial to the Earth sustainability and to the preservation of strong social networks based on joint responsibility. They decided to travel the world in search of this sort of activities.

A search of initiatives all over the world aimed to preserve the Earth and create human networks.

There are many documentaries warning about the imminent threats to the climatic system and to humankind, and asking for immediate, radical changes in the global economic model, claiming to get rid of the irresponsible, pathological capitalism of scorched earth and to embrace alternative, sustainable actions in the fields of economy and energy consumption. Tomorrow is the first one which shows a wide range of economic and community initiatives already being driven all over the world -in ten different countries and five continents-, a plurality of effective actions demonstrating that it is possible to survive in an economy other than the damaging Neoliberal capitalism. It is a positive documentary which doesn’t repeat once more the complaint of many former films: it doesn’t contain informational pieces on the general features of climate change, nor popular characters trying to persuade the viewer to act. Its main interest is to have pinpointed some of the most right and inspiring initiatives taking place nowadays and to have integrated them in an affirmative message aimed to show that economic, ecological, and social problems are receiving many daring, inventive answers. Tomorrow is revolutionary not because of criticisms, but because of the good, inspiring news it gives.

Tomorrow is revolutionary not because of its criticisms, but because of the good, inspiring news it gives.

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Some of the many participants in the film. In addition to the two directors, there are scientitsts (biologists, a doctor in natural farming), a sociologist, the CEO of an environmentally friendly, equitable, profitable company, and the main driver of the Transition Towns movement. Highly skilled people who stand up for the planet and its inhabitants.

The film structure is neat, which is most convenient due to the abundant information it conveys. Its two hours are divided into five parts: agriculture (feeding), energy, economy, democracy, and education. These parts, more than sections of a discourse, are facets of collective human existence. In each one of these facets the main problems are underlined, and some prominent alternative actions are shown.

The film is structured in five parts: agriculture (feeding), energy, economy, democracy, and education.

Agriculture (feeding):

Since the first condition for survival is eating, the film investigating how to assure the human survival begins by looking for kinds of sustainable agriculture (environmentally friendly, based on principles of cooperation among producers and consumers without the intervention of exploitative intermediaries). After denouncing the unviability of industrial agriculture -bread for today, hunger for tomorrow-, Tomorrow shows different small producers working in sustainable agriculture. The big surprise in this section is the -proved- information that, contrary to what mainstream press have been telling us along years, providing humankind with the necessary food doesn’t depend of intensive exploitations of extensive lands, but, on the contrary, of the cooperation of many small farmers scattered all over the world. Industrial agriculture, based on aggressive chemicals and monocultures is much less productive than traditional, natural, responsible agriculture. Direct relation of human beings to the land, without big companies like Monsanto interfering, is what can give the necessary amount of food to the 7000 millions who need it. Indian activist Vandana Shiva, a world guide in the defence of sustainable, social agriculture, offers her documented, authoritative view in the matter.

Providing humankind with the necessary food doesn’t depend of intensive exploitations of extensive lands, but, on the contrary, of the cooperation of many small farmers scattered all over the world.

As examples of cooperative farmers, Tomorrow shows the small urban horticulturists in Detroit city (Michigan), who after their city sunk in poverty due to the dismantling of car industry, found a feasible way out in food sovereignty practised in urban gardens; the Incredible Edible movement, born in the small English city of Todmorden and afterwards spread to many other English and French towns, where vegetables are grown and consumed in a communal, free way; Bec Hellouin Farm, in Normandy, where the variety of horticulture called permaculture (based on the alliance with, instead of the systematic violation of, natural ecosystems) is practised with an optimal result, much better than that of destructive industrial agriculture. The conclusion of this section is that there are two opposed agriculture models: the one that destroys the land and creates an oppressive vertical relationship of dominance between big companies and farmers; and the natural, human scale one, which cares for the land and for all of the beings taking part in the long process of production and consumption. The later can make possible the long-term survival of humankind in spite of the shortage of water and other problems related to climate change.

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Urban gardens in Detroit (Michigan), a new way of practising agriculture.
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Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer grow vegetables according to permaculture principles at their Bec Hellouin Farm (Normandy).

Energy:

Industrial farming depends completely on oil, which is the base of the fuel of tractors and other machines, of insecticides and of many other chemicals. The change of food model implies adopting renewable energies. These find in many places of the world the opposition and the boycott of oil and electricity industry, which want to go on selling its products at the expense of the health of the Earth and its inhabitants. But in spite of this boycott, many projects manage to thrive with green energy (solar, wind, marine power). The film takes us to Copenhagen, Reunion island and Iceland, where a sustainable energetic model has been implemented through solar panels, marine wind farms, geothermal technology (Icelandic geysers) and other devices environmentalism has received from cutting-edge science. The positive economic balance recounted by all the interviewed recommends the adoption of renewable energy: while it is true that an initial investment is necessary to buy and implant equipments, the return is sure and quick: in few years all the operation of transferring from conventional to green energy is profitable, something which must be added to the many social and environmental advantages. In Copenhagen, for instance, in the cold European North, citizens pay for heating a third of the money paid by French people.

The change to green energy must be accompanied by other measures related to consumption, as the preference for sustainable mobility -bicycles, public transport like train and bus-, much driven in Nordic cities through urban polices that penalize the use of the car and facilitate bikes and public transport. Interviewed policy-makers are deeply conscious of the huge advantages the adoption of the green model has implied to their fellow citizen’s individual and collective lives. Town planner  Jean Gehl was instrumental in creating the Copenhagen model as a sustainable city, with a big reduction of energetic expense due to the support the councils gave to bicycle and pedestrian transportation. What emerges in this section is that deep changes in energetic policies can’t go on being a matter of the States -which are too embroiled with big interests-, and must become the responsibility of cities.

Deep changes in energetic policies can’t go on being a matter of the States -which are too embroiled with big interests-, and must become the responsibility of cities.

 

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Copenhagen: a right urban program favours the use of bicycles to the detriment of cars.

Tomorrow shows also a model of massive recycling implemented in San Francisco, California, where there is few waste in garbage thanks to a systematic process of triage beginning already in homes and culminates in the production of compost for farmers. Almost everything is recycled in a campaign of recuperation where all sorts of San Francisco citizens, from consumers to garbage collectors, take part. Business have tax reductions for participating, and policymakers pass laws favourable to almost universal recycling. Today San Francisco recycles 80% of all the matter thrown to garbage, and aims to recycle 100% by 2020. This plan of “zero waste” has spread to ten other American cities.

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Team of recyclers in San Francisco. They belong to Recology, an employee-owned company. “It’s not garbage. It’s resources”.

Economy:

Demain includes real models of alternative economy all over the world. For instance, the Transition Towns movement, a network of towns -cities and villages- which have managed to build up a system of local economy, with a coin proper to each town, where all the commercial activities benefit society instead of giving their profits to the virtual economy of delocalised capitalism. Rob Hopkins, the main driver of Transition Towns from the little village of Totnes (South West of England), makes intelligent and humorous comments on the inability of oil-based economy to help people and communities to live well, and proposes instead a new kind of economy and society, a resilient, sustainable one capable of taking care of themselves while caring as well for environment. Transition Towns’ cohesive approach can be seen in the images recorded in Bristol, a city integrated in this movement, where the Bristol pound is the main coin alongside the English pound, and allows local trade to strive and benefit the people, not absent companies. Even the Mayor asked to have his salary in Bristol pounds.

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Rob Hopkins, Transition Towns prime mover. With his trade-mark sense of humour shows a note of 21 Totnes pound. Why not?

As a company exemplary in environmentalist practices and model in labour relations, the film shows Pocheco, a Nord-Pas-de-Calais (North of France) firm specialised in making envelopes. Pochecho works in accordance with ecolonomical principles, a combination of commercial activity and respect for nature and human ecosystems which gives excellent results. The firm’s wood supplier plants four trees for each cut one, the factory uses non-polluting water-based ink which after its use is diluted in the water which feeds the bamboo whose stalks are the fuel of the heating in all the building of the enterprise, where the roofs are covered with solar panels that produce the electric energy. Benefits don’t increase shareholders’ winnings, but they are reinvested in the company in order to improve their operation. There’s an intense activity in research and development. The difference between the higher and the lowest wages is of 4 to 1, instead of the 100 to 1 of some conventional companies. And all of this is profitable, ecological producing is more economical.

 

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Pochecho managers and workers. This envelope company based on ecolonomical principles (economy + environmentalism) respects both the environment and human beings, with clean practices and good labour relations. Because of (not instead of) this approach, the company is highly profitable.

Democracy:

The democratic deficit created by neoliberalism has been corrected in many places in the world. In Tomorrow we can see the case of Iceland, where the people overthrow the Government and the highest bank managers who had ruined the country. This dismissal of senior posts by grassroot showed that it is possible reconstruct political organization despite all the structure assembled by the establishment in the last decades. It is not an slogan: it happened.

The possibility of transforming societies towards paticipative, balanced models is seen in the Indian village of Kutthambattam (Tamil Nadu), which passed from an endemic state of violence, extreme classism, and unconcerned pollution to a dynamics of popular assemblies driven by principles of cohesive co-responsibility among villagers.

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Popular assembly in the village of Kutthambattam (India), where principles of direct democracy have been implemented.

Education:

The last part of the film deals with the basis of the problem: education. In order to change the wrong, devastating economic and political working implanted by neoliberal capitalism and to build an alternative model it is necessary a new mentality, a new cast of mind. Get rid of the old principles -individualism, competitiviness, search for instant success- and promote the opposite ones: respect, cooperation, co-responsibility. In order to change the paradigm is needed a educative reform, beginning with teachers’ attitudes towards children. Tomorrow shows the possibility of a different education in a school of a working-class neighbourhood in Espoo (Finland). Finland has been regarded for many years the model country in education, because its children are the ones who get -by far- the best marks in international tests on different subjects. This outstanding ability isn’t due to high performance programs, but simply to the respect Finn teachers feel for their pupils.

As the director of the Espoo centre explains, there isn’t a unique education system for all the children of the country, not even for all the children of the same school. Each child is a different person, with different needs and talents. The good teacher is the one that knows how to understand each of his or her students and adapt the program to specific characters. Apart from that, children enter school late, there aren’t compulsory exams, no State inspectors evaluate the quality of the schools. All the Finn system is based on trust: from Govern to schools, from schools to teachers, from teachers to children. More than specific contents to be memorized, what children learn in school is how to learn, and how to live. The aim isn’t train and indoctrinate, but to provide tools -moral, emotional, intellectual- to grow as proper human beings: as free, responsible, respectful, cooperative persons. The sort of person able to improve the world.

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Kari Louhivuori, headmaster in the school of Kirkkojarvi (Finland).

Contrary to what could be feared, Tomorrow doesn’t err on the side of easy optimism and shallow propaganda. It includes a plurality of initiatives and perspectives that allows the viewer to understand in what senses and directions our species could move to leave the ill-fated situation. Perhaps more importantly, it shows that, even without being obsessed with the future consequences of the present actions, the fact of taking part in them makes the lives of the participants much better and livable, right now, than what would be if they were trapped in the maze of soul-destroying work and economic, social and environmental irresponsibility called neoliberal capitalism. We should learn much from the brave, lively people appearing in this film, and from their transcendent actions, from their worthy stance in the world. Positive news are the most revolutionary.

DETAILS

Directors: Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent
Script: Cyril Dion
Country: France
Original language: French and English
Running length: 118 minutes
Web: http://www.demain-lefilm.com/en
Trailer http://www.demain-lefilm.com/en

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