CLIMATE EXODUS: is climate change real?

Media Screening – Streaming online throughout the festival until 4 February
(63 minutes) – Documentary / Original Title: Éxodo climático

The Environmental Film Festival Australia opened the season with Climate Exodus released just last October 2020. Like the festival, this short documentary serves to dispel doubt on critics of climate change as we’re taken across three continents exploring the experiences of three women who struggle to navigate the the effects of it and the immediate impact on their way of living. Material until now rarely puts a face to these issues. A compelling case is presented on the environmental changes manifesting in modern times impacting communities at this very moment. For the most part, urban living keeps many of us detached from the immediate problem with a general sentiment that its effects aren’t something many of our generation will have to endure in our lifetime.

We all have a general grasp on the concepts of the subject but we’re somewhat detached from it until the lid is lifted on the three women who tell their stories. Mainstream reporting often allows for this topic to sit in a cloud of ambiguity, clinical peer review selective rehashing and sensationalised headlines. Many who see this docuemtnary will be offered an emotional connection to the topic when experiencing the material David Baute spent years shooting.

Photo Credit: Tiff Ng / The opening sequence of Climate Exodus doesn’t waste any time as we’re immediately confronted with its food for thought in the following statement: “It’s estimated that an astounding 300 million people will become climate refugees by the year 2050, forced to emigrate to escape climate-related destruction. This artfully composed, frank and unflinching documentary shines a light on this eradication.

LAND EROSION AND FLOODING IN INDIA:
Increasing temperatures, melting polar caps and expanding sea levels are expected to engulf the coastlines of the Netherlands and Bangladesh by the turn of the century, but right now, as we’re taken 92km south of Kolkata, India, we follow Soma Maiti as Baute captures panoramic ocean views of Ghoramara island.

The political limitations of the country’s intervention and support capabilities has left it’s civilians (once a population of 40,000 living in the once fifty square kilometre island, now five square kilometre haven) to fend for themselves. Over a number of years, progression of the island’s sinking, land erosion and disappearing coastline sees the community erect their own embankments in an effort to defend against the inevitable rising water levels.

David Baute uses minimal dialogue, but rather lets the beautiful imagery to tell the story, giving viewers a sense of daily life in the communities he visits. Interweaving shots of local schools, families, landscapes and the slow progression of flooding with homes marked by the tells of the low and high tides reaching into the homes of Ghoramarans.

After years of adapting to the ebbs and flows of the ocean engulfing their island, Soma Maiti joins a boat of her neighbours leaving generations of culture and family history behind, and also bids farewell to her grandparents who intend to stay and disappear with the island when the time comes…

DROUGHT IN AFRICA:
Over 6000km away, the effects of increased temperatures, in contrast, affect the Turkana Country of Kenya differently through a lack of water. For the villagers of Turkana, the community here is fully dependent on the natural elements, as one villager describes their drought season continuing to last longer from year to year presenting challenges to maintain livestock.

Accessing water involves hours of walking to a water hole in which riverbeds are dug by villagers during the drought, once depleted they move on to the next one. While pastures don’t exist during extreme periods of drought, the livestock are self sufficient being able to trek to areas not conveniently accessible to its community dwellers to feed. The problem here is the increasing scarcity of water leading families to fight and rob each other’s water wells, as in this culture and civilisation, water is power. We’re told thousands in this region are displaced on a daily basis.

EXTREME WEATHER CONDITIONS REGULARLY RAVAGING THE CARRIBEAN:
Increased temperatures as a result of human induced climate change are said to impact patterns of weather as warmer air can hold more water vapor. Therefore an atmosphere with a higher moisture threshold translates into intensified precipitation events and extreme weather conditions.

We see these effects in Saint Martin which is regularly battered with hurricanes with each event becoming more frequent and intense then the previous. The devastating aftermath of the city destroyed from the eyes of local Vanesa De Los Santos forces us to imagine a world where infrastructure is completely knocked out, with no electricity, no internet, no phones, and basic resources for survival.

Many have already left Saint Martin, but for many like Vanesa, who’s documentation isn’t in order, despite hurricane warnings, there is no where to go when the storm hits and they simply see it through and deal with what is left standing. Over and over again…

Photo Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko

Religion and superstitious rituals bring hope to some of these communities who are at the mercy of the elements and what’s heartbreaking is they are completely oblivious or can’t comprehend the actions of the first world that has caused the displacement and changes to their ecosystems. Scarcity in resources and erratic weather has forced them to exile themselves from their lands. Communities searching to reconcile the cause of the atrocities look to a higher divine power. Furthermore, as many of us know what the solution is to slow or reverse the effects of climate change, relief of the victims of its effects is a moral obligations that might not be collectively shared.

Climate Exodus shows that the effects of global warming aren’t distributed evenly through the planet with some countries more than others susceptible to those harsh consequences. The way the food supply is grown and harvested becomes affected, the availability of lands to become less inhabitable due to shortages in resources will lead to an influx of populations needing refuge and we’ve seen the stink people kick up when it comes to those escaping wore torn and persecuting environments. How will those refugees of climate change be treated? How fair is it that the people who complain about the influx of refugees might have played apart in the upheaval of these people’s lives in the first place?

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WHAT ELSE IS PLAYING AT THE ENVIRONMENTAL FILM FESTIVAL AUSTRALIA?

Held annually in Melbourne, EFFA is Australia’s only international film festival dedicated to screening films with a focus on the environment.  EFFA screens films from around the world; last year showcasing 44 films from 20 countries as well as meet the maker sessions, in conversation events, panel sessions and special events. From local enviro heroes, to multinational ‘eco-villains’, EFFA’s program is interesting, diverse and thought-provoking, while staying true to the mission that EFFA provides a catalyst for positive and sustainable change, raising awareness and generating meaningful impact for our audiences.

Due to COVID-19, EFFA has taken their annual festival online and turned it into a four part series which began in October last year with the upcoming remainder of its program slated this year:
Summer of Change in January 2021 (Summer), April 2021 (Autumn), and June 2021 (Winter).

This season we celebrate all the visionaries, innovators and disruptors currently fighting to protect and preserve the integrity of our environment including a series of shorts and the following films below available throughout the season to be streamed live and on demand throughout the festival:

Wild Things by Sally Ingleton

Against a backdrop of drought, fire and floods, this compelling documentary provides an intimate insight into the new generation of environmental activism. Armed with only mobile phones, the ever growing army of ecowarriors will do whatever it takes to save their futures from the ravages of climate change. From chaining themselves to coal trains, sitting high in the canopy of threatened rainforest and locking onto bulldozers, their non-violent tactics are designed to generate mass action with one finger tap.

Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs by Edmunds Jansons
When the local park is threatened to be destroyed and replaced with skyscrapers by greedy city businessmen, young Mimmi is let down as the adults around her (including her retired-pirate father) refuse to stand in the way of progress to help her protect her favourite tree. In this beautifully animated, joyous adventure, Mimmi joins forces with her cousin Jacob and a pack of talking (yes, talking!) dogs, and discovers that sometimes to make a change, standing up and taking action can make all the difference.

That’s Wild by Michiel Thomas

An ode to the unique healing powers of the outdoors, and a moving human story of discovering self-worth, That’s Wild blends the majesty of the Colorado landscape with the excitement and adventure of grappling with extreme rugged terrain, offering up a story that is both genuinely soulful and inspiring. Following an after-school group of Atlanta teenagers (and their quirky mentor Bill) as they tackle the Maroon Bells mountain range, this award-winning documentary is affecting, charming and visually stunning. It will leave you both proud of the boys’ courage and perseverance and in absolute awe of the Colorado wilderness.

Citizen Nobel by Stéphane Goël

This charming documentary gives rise to your new favourite eco-warrior: Jacques Dubochet, 78-year old Nobel Prize winning scientist. Join Jacques as he navigates his newly forged celebrity status and discovers how he can make a positive difference to the mounting climate movement. This is the activism story you never knew you needed.

Smog Town by HAN Meng

China has declared war on smog, and Li, the devoted director of the local environmental bureau in the city of Langfang, leads a crucial battle. Air contamination is damaging the environment, the health of citizens and the image of the ruling Communist Party. But who pays for this environmental crisis? What happens if the defence of blue skies can only be achieved at the expense of the most impoverished citizens and workers?

The Edge of Existence by James Suter and Charlie Luckock

Zeroing in on the Western Corridor of the Serengeti, The Edge of Existence uncovers the urgent story of current human-wildlife conflict in Africa which threatens the survival of the local populations and animals-alike.  This striking documentary gives voice to both sides of the animal conservation versus human preservation debate, bringing to the forefront a story in urgent need of telling.

The Last Ice by Scott Ressler

Just as rapidly as the region between Greenland and Canada dissolves, the threat of renewed colonisation and greed rises. With oil and gas deposits, faster shipping routes, tourism and fishing all providing financial incentive to exploit the newly opened waters, the outside world sees unprecedented opportunity. But for more than 100,000 Inuit who live in the Arctic, an entire way of life is at stake.

Warrior Women by Christina D. King and Elizabeth A. Castle

Interspersed with beautifully preserved archival footage, Warrior Women uses a circular Indigenous style of storytelling to explore what it means to navigate leading a movement, motherhood and legacy, under the rule of a colonizing government that consistently meets Native resistance with violence. Looking at America’s brutal history, while shining a light on the environmentally destructive present, the film’s rock ‘n’ roll sensibility is insightful and inspiring, a nurturing history lesson from the women who saw it firsthand.

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