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On Energy Debates and Food Documentaries

January 21, 2010

Tonight, live from the University of Charleston (WestVirginia), a debate will air online between Waterkeeper Alliance President and environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Massey Energy Chairman and CEO Don Blankenship. The discussion is called the Forum on the Future of Energy and it will “advance the national discussion about U.S. energy policy and its impact on jobs, the environment, the economy, and national security.”

Several local television stations will broadcast the debate: WOWK, WBOY, WTRF, WVNS, and WSAZ. It will also be online at Justin TV. Here‘s the form to submit a question (I don’t know what the cutoff is/was, but if you’ve got a burning question, you may as well submit).

Next, food as social activism in Food Fight, which is now available on DVD after making the rounds of film festivals and garnering quite a few accolades. And yes, Michael Pollan is once again featured, as he has become the nation’s expert on food.

Did you squirm at the goat comment?

I’ve seen King Corn, Food Inc., Fast Food Nation and The Future of Food and there’s not a vegan message in the lot, not that I thought there would be. Super Size Me comes closer. It seems that Earthlings (though heavy on factory farming and animal mills rather than on creating animals to eat or pet, despite a fantastic opening about speciesism) and Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home are the only films available that ask the tough questions about animals. And the latter is the only film I’ve seen with a message I completely agree with. Let me know if I’m leaving something out. The first four films are helpful for your environmental advocacy and especially for food policy enlightenment. From the corporate control of the seeds to the corporate control of animals and land, to the astounding number of corporate attorneys and CEOs of agribusiness who end up in key government positions, this group of films-though not without flaws-presents the issues clearly and simply.

From the clip above, it doesn’t seem like Food Fight has much to add, but we’ll see.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 10:43 am

    “Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home” seems to be the only film out of the ones you mentioned that really looks at animals as individuals.

    Have you read “Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge” by Vandana Shiva? I found that it covered the issue about the corporate control of seeds very well. (I haven’t had a chance to read her newer works, which might expand even more on that issue.) http://www.powells.com/biblio/7-9780896085558-1

    Thanks for the information about the debate.

    • January 22, 2010 7:47 am

      MJ, I haven’t read Biopiracy–thanks for the recommendation! I’ve read Seeds of Deception and Seeds of Destruction. The World According to Monsanto is both a book and a DVD. Haven’t seen/read either but they’re on my list.

      The debate was bizarre, if you didn’t catch it. It wasn’t much of a discussion as they not only disagreed about everything, but they live in two different worlds of truth. Each denies the others position and research and truths and neither budged on anything.

      • January 22, 2010 10:45 am

        Mary,

        Thanks for providing so many viewing options. Unfortunately, the Justin TV broadcast had garbled audio. I was able to easily switch to another station you listed. The topic was very interesting, though both men seemed to just play their media roles as spokespeople for the sides they represented. Like you mentioned, each was firmly hunkered down in his own perspective and truth. A disturbing trend I see (ever since the Green Scare began) is how industries circumvent the law by getting it rewritten, sometimes with only a single phrase that leaves a loophole open for (mis)interpretation. Or, as it seems in Blankenship’s case, he just pays the petty (by corporate standards) fines for over 10,000 environmental violations and still makes a profit.

        Though Kennedy spoke of all the health problems for people living near coal mines, he was unwilling to say that all coal mining (not just mountaintop-removal mining) should end, for fear of alienating those who have for generations made their living from it? But by turning to truly sustainable forms of energy such as wind and solar power, wouldn’t there be plenty of jobs for everyone? Especially when the increasing use of machines are already taking jobs from miners.

        I didn’t know there’s a DVD version of the Monsanto book. Thanks.

  2. January 21, 2010 11:21 am

    We (Animal Place) have a film called The Emotional World of Farm Animals. It was aired on PBS when it was released and is something we give free to teachers. It doesn’t have graphic footage, which is a bonus for families and teachers. And it introduces people to the seemingly novel concept that farmed animals feel emotions, are engaging, sentient beings.

    It’s unfortunate, though unsurprising, that films with a more mainstream target audience would avoid the vegan message altogether. I mean, 1% of the American population is vegan, so it isn’t a shocker that the non-animal films would aim for the other 99% of the population. The step of going vegan is so freaking obvious to us, but it continues to be a difficult sell, for whatever reasons.

    • January 22, 2010 7:53 am

      Marji,
      That’s a great point about the market. Though I didn’t care for Jonathan Safran Foer’s message, part of his point that you cannot deny is that the vast, vast majority of animals who are eaten came from a factory farm. Writing for the 99% is smart, though ideology suffers. The children’s book: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals does the same thing–focuses on factory farms. It’s maddening, but if I were a publisher, I’d be more interested–for business reasons (and that would be my job)–in that than a book that tells people they shouldn’t be eating animals at all. If I were a vegan publisher, perhaps things would be different. But alas, I think we’ve got a total of one of those.

      • January 22, 2010 10:50 am

        Mary,

        Foer probably won’t ever suggest ending all animal agriculture because he’s part of the staff at Farm Forward, which perpetuates the humane meat myth and the conscientious consumer myth. http://www.farmforward.com/about-us/people Notice the smiling pig icon, the literal face of “happy pork.”

        I think the philosophy of groups such as Farm Forward is a cleverly calculated strategy to mislead the public so animal organizations can claim “victories” (Farm Forward even has such a category on the site) and the consumer can eat animals without feeling guilt. Make factory farming the so-called scapegoat and give everyone a place to purge their frustrations. But it just delays creating a more healthy, nonviolent planet based on veganic farming. There would be a place in such a world for both nonhuman animals and humans. That indeed would be a true victory.

  3. jeannie permalink
    January 21, 2010 2:36 pm

    MJ, thank you mentioning your recommendation on the book Biospiracy. I have never heard of the book before, but am going to look into requesting it at the library. I have read articles by Shiva and find her ideas compelling/inspiring. I currently have the book Seeds of Destruction checked out, though I haven’t begun reading it yet (has anyone else here read it? Any thoughts?). It also focuses on the how the power elite are attempting to control our seed supply, and consequently our food. I think this may end up being one of the most important issues of this century, along with climate change. I don’t have extensive knowledge about this issue (yet :-), but my hope is that we start discussing it more in the animal rights/vegan community so that we can all learn more about it. Across the board, it appears to clearly be a rights issue. I would love to see veganic gardening/farming become part of this discussion and considered an integral solution to the problem we see rapidly arising with our seed/food supply. Last month I began picking out which seed catalogs I wanted to have mailed to me, and it took some research to figure out which seed companies have no ties to Monsanto or other non-organic companies. I began to realize how insidious and pervasive the problem is.

    • January 21, 2010 7:56 pm

      jeannie,

      I think this is a huge issue, too. If anyone is a real “eco-terrorist,” it’s Monsanto–giving us at least 80% of all existing GMOs today. Apparently, whoever controls all the seeds, controls the world. That’s pretty scary.

      Altering the genes of an apple doesn’t stop with just that apple because nothing exists in isolation. Everything affects something else and results in unforeseen consequences. Like the study that proved when people eat genetically modified foods, the artificially manufactured genes transfer into and change the character of the “good” bacteria in their intestines. And of course, beneficial bacteria are essential for our very existence.

      I haven’t read “Seeds of Destruction” but will look for it at the library. There are too many books I’d like to read! :)

      By the way, at a veg fest a couple years ago I came across an interesting book called “Growing Green.” It’s about veganic farming. http://farmkind.org/green.htm

    • January 22, 2010 7:56 am

      Jeannie,
      I agree that seeds (ownership and genetic engineering of them and of food, in general) and climate change, in addition to water and water rights, will probably be the issues of the century.

  4. jeannie permalink
    January 26, 2010 10:27 pm

    MJ, a while back I watched a documentary called Bad Seed, which drove home exactly what you say about genetically modified food.

    Speaking of Monsanto, check out this pdf, which shows a chart of all the seed companies that Monsanto owns: http://www.msu.edu/%7Ehowardp/seedindustry.pdf . Semenis is the company to look out for when buying organic seeds – some organic seed companies carry seeds from Semenis.

    Thank you for mentioning the book Growing Green. I do own it, and it has been helpful as a reference book. I also just bought a used book called Veganic Gardening by Kenneth Dalziel O’Brien (I haven’t read it yet). The book is a bit dated (published in 1986), but I suspect that may not matter in terms of the information it provides.

    Mary, yes, water and water rights are becoming bigger issues by the day. Water issues for humans and other animals are tied directly to climate change (in the form of droughts, or more indirectly in the form of rising sea level, melting glaciers/floating ice, ocean patterns, polluted waterways, etc.). And water rights issues are tied directly to the privatization of water by mega-corporations both here in the U.S. and abroad. So many people and other animals around the world are already going thirsty and dying because of these vital issues. It’s only going to get worse.

    • January 27, 2010 1:56 pm

      jeannie,

      A few weeks ago I watched a part of “Bad Seed” on YouTube. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe how completely nuts Monsanto is. Thanks for the handy chart and tip about the organic seeds!

    • jeannie permalink
      January 29, 2010 5:16 pm

      Speaking of water/water rights issues, I read an article today that talks about how all the issues are linked to climate change: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/29-5

      “Even if we successfully address and reverse greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, Kravcik says, we will not be able to stop climate change if we do not deal with the impact of our abuse of water on the planet.”

  5. January 27, 2010 5:50 pm

    My university is having its first (yes, after three years here, it’s the first to my knowledge) viewing of a food documentary tomorrow. Food, Inc. I got an omnivore-centric e-mail about it (mentioning Pollan) from the Eco-Action group and then another from Unconventional Eaters. I won’t be attending, although I am required to watch the film later in the semester for my Green Politics class. Joy! I really want to host something to counteract this.

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