The Collapse of Civilization? A Movie
Cyril Dion, French writer, film director, poet, and ecological activist, producer of the documentary film "Tomorrow", co-founder of the "Mouvement Colibris" aka "Hummingbird Movement", and founder of Kaizen Magazine, speaks about the dangers posed by global warming to our species.
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Cyril Dion is a French writer, film director, poet, and ecological activist. He is the writer and co-producer of the documentary film “Tomorrow” with Melanie Laurent, which won numerous awards for “Best Documentary” and which has been released in 30 countries. He organized the First and Second World Congress of “Imams and Rabbis for Peace,” co-founded the “Humming Bird Movement” in France, is the founder of Kaizen Magazine, and is the author of three books.
Dion: We may be facing the biggest challenge humanity ever faced. [During the course of filming “Tomorrow”] we met scientists who told us that [humanity might face extinction by the end of the 21st century if we don’t drastically change our energy consumption habits over the course of the next 20 years. We made the movie] in response to a journal article in “Nature” about the possible extinction of part of mankind by the end of the century. [In our film] we tried to [present] solutions… instead of focusing on the [global] catastrophe [that is climate change].
Cooper: [What in particular struck you about the article and] why did you [choose to respond to the article’s morbid prediction] through film?
Dion: The paper [basically said that combining] all the problems we now face such as pollution, climate change, soil erosion, and the [greatest] disappearance of animal species worldwide since the disappearance of the dinosaurs millions of years ago, [then our planet may be pushed beyond] a tipping point [towards an] ecological disaster. [The paper hypothesized that the combination of these myriad factors could lead to] a food shortage, an economic crisis, [and to mass casualties on a catastrophic scale].
[By making the movie] we were trying to not only to [warn the public] about this catastrophe [(to which we dedicated only five minutes of the movie)], but [we attempted] to find [a means of averting these impending crises in order to] empower people instead of simply scaring them.
Cooper: A previous film, “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Oscar for addressing the dangers posed by climate change. Are you saying that “Tomorrow,” rather than focusing on raising global awareness of the dangers posed by climate change, instead seeks to present solutions that individual viewers of your film could actually implement in order to help avoid this crisis?
Dion: Absolutely. And [our film attempted to convey that in addition to there being a recourse for individuals to take action] we try to show that cities, governments, and businesses can also take direct action right now.
Cooper: You organized the film into five chapters: agriculture, economy, education, democracy, and energy. Clearly some of these chapters have a more direct impact on climate change than others. How is it that you began categorizing the film into these chapters in particular since there is a nearly infinite number of categories that might directly or indirectly pose a threat to geo-political stability.
Dion: Actually we wanted to focus on the main subjects that are influencing our society. And we started with agriculture because it addresses a basic human need: we need to eat every day. Many studies [have attributed the collapse of nations with] food shortages. [Our first priority as a species must be to] find a way to feed everybody on the planet by the end of this century. We found many solutions [to this quandary]: use less chemical [fertilizers to produce food and revert to biodiversity as a more sustainable solution to agricultural production].
We came to realize that our current agriculture system is heavily dependent on oil. We determined that [changing our means of agricultural production would require a reduction of the agricultural industry’s dependence on oil]. And we found some really great solutions [vis a vis] renewable energy sources. But at some point we just realized that to make this transition we need money. And since many cities and states are now very much in debt, they don't have the money to [undergo] this transition. So we had an economic problem that needed to be addressed. And again, we found great solutions. And at some point we realized that we needed to find a new way to organize our democracy in order to change our economic system. And then again we found some great solutions but at some point we [determined that in order for] a good democracy to function [the electorate needed to be well educated].
Cooper: On the topic of potential food shortages, you may well remember that in the 1960s and 70s there were predictions that in the coming decade humanity would actually not be able to feed itself. [This led to mass sterilization efforts around the globe and the one child policy in China. Of course all of that was averted due to the technological advances that characterized the Green Revolution that, as you mentioned earlier, introduced a heavy reliance of agricultural production on petroleum products and which is also associated with large-scale industrial monoculture.
How would you respond to a skeptic listening to this show who says that the aversion of the 1960s dystopian future is evidence that there is nothing to fear from with climate change?]
Dion: We have thousands of scientists warning us about the consequences of climate change and [providing us with evidence that] we are currently experiencing a mass extinction of species. [Climate change] is not some kind of a fantasy that might happen in the future; [it is our present reality]. So we know that we need to do something about it.
Our use of industrial agriculture is destroying the ecosystem too fast. [It requires us] to cut down our forests, use pesticides, [reduce biodiversity], and pollute our water. We are causing massive climate change through our agriculture. We need to find [new agricultural production processes that are less detrimental to our environment]. By speaking with scientists from around the world we learned that biological ecosystems require diversity in order to be resilient. There is no monoculture in the natural world. Monoculture has worked well, [efficiently producing great quantities of food at a low cost. We are just now realizing its has huge impacts on nature. It turns out that it would behoove us to draw inspiration from nature]. For example, we were really inspired by the [manner in which] light [filters through] forests, [enabling forests to remain fertile] for centuries. [We asked ourselves] how we could reproduce the fertility of the forests in agricultural settings.
Cooper: You present this film as a call to action more than just simply a method of artistic expression. You have shown the film to supranational organizations and national governments. You have screened the film before legislative assemblies and it has been shown to individuals across many different society around the globe. Could you speak about what solutions you're really proposing? What are you specifically asking governments to do, asking of the United Nations, and asking of individuals? What actions by others would lead you to conclude that making this film was worthwhile?
Dion: Basically we need to stop climate change as soon as we can. So one of the biggest thing we need to do is to [transition] from fossil fuel energy to renewable energy as quickly as possible so that we can stop [exacerbating climate change by emitting vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere]. We need to stop destroying the natural world, [especially with regards to the natural habitats of endangered species]. Transitioning from industrial and chemical agriculture to organic, bio-diverse agricultural production while forsaking the use of chemicals or petroleum products will help move our society back from the brink of disaster.
We also need to strengthen our local economies because we have too much socio-economic disparity in the world. Civilizations tend to collapse largely because of two factors: over consumption of natural resources at a rate that exceeds the capability of those resources to replenish themselves, and the other one is growing socio-economic disparity. We need to find a way to share our collective wealth more equitably. One manner of achieving a more equitable distribution of wealth is to have a wide diversity of local businesses that funnel revenues back into the local economy. Multi-national corporations tend to concentrate too much power and too much money for an economy to be sustainable in the long-term.
Cooper: When you speak about the redistribution of wealth some American listeners may think of socialism, the Cold War, and communism, all of which have exceedingly negative connotations in the minds of many Americans. But of course all governments redistribute wealth to some extent through their tax structure. Are you advocating for greater income tax rates? How would you wish to redistribute the wealth?
Dion: I would like to change the tax structure more than I would like to increase particular tax rates. We could also change the way we create money, which is currently mainly created through debt.
Cooper: Let’s pivot to your personal narrative, specifically with regards to how you've actually begun to live out the meaning of your creed. You have taken measures to decrease the carbon footprint of the filming process and you founded a political movement that has impacted French elections. Can you take a moment to speak about what led you to take action to create the change for which you are advocating?
Dion: Actually my carbon footprint hasn’t been that great for the past three years because I’ve been traveling the world to produce the movie. However in my day to day life I became a vegetarian because eating less meat, especially less red meat, is one of the greatest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. I’ve also been increasingly traveling by bike and by train, avoiding the use of my car as best as I can. I recycle, I compost, I eat organic, local food and I buy organic laundry detergent.
Cooper: You founded the “Hummingbird Movement”; what were you trying to accomplish there?
Dion: Actually the name “Hummingbird” comes from a South America legend. All of the animals of the forest gathered on the riverbank feeling scared and helpless in the face of a large forest fire. None of the animals knew what to do except for the hummingbird who went to the river to get water to put out the fire, one drop at a time. After a while all the animals told the hummingbird that the situation was helpless and that the fire would never be put out with only a few drops of water. The hummingbird responded by saying, “Yes, I know, but I’ve done my share.” And that's pretty much the objective of the Hummingbird Movement. We each must do our share to build a more ecologically sustainable and humane society.
Cooper: Do you have a sense of the impact of the movement?
Dion: We are trying to empower people wherever they are by offering solutions. 300,000 people in France are now working with us to create local currencies, organic farms, and more responsive local governments.
Cooper: So as we approach the end of this podcast I'd like to ask you a final question. You mentioned one of your reasons for creating the film “Tomorrow” was to catalyze a shift away from a materialist societal orientation to one in which individuals have more meaningful lives and are in greater harmony with nature, essentially preventing an imminent collapse of civilization.
Can you speak to how taking action will not only avert greater civilizational collapse, which conceptually sounds universally attractive, but more importantly could you speak to how everyone could lead a more personally meaningful life?
Dion: I have two children, ages 12 and 9, and I don't want them to grow up in a world that is going to be some Kelce. So I. I want to do everything I can just to avoid this catastrophe and to and to let them you know living in a great world. That's what every parent should do I think. And to me that's also something that is going to make us more happy. I mean we are nuts. I mean we are not on this planet just to go to work and buy or to work in order to be able to buy. That's just a stupid way to be on a stupid reason for being on this earth. So I think we this is also some kind of a spiritual crisis. We need to find meaning in life and we need to do things that we are OK with when we buy when we work when we travel. And if we kind of realize that's what we are doing in the way we are living has tremendous negative impacts on people and not on nature. We should do something about it. That's that's just the only reason I'm doing all the light did all these years and that has been the real deal.
Cooper: The French writer film director poet and ecological activist writer and co-producer of the documentary film tomorrow which is the award winner for best documentary of this series our award the Oscar equivalent. He's a former president of the jury in a documentary movie category. It's a Latin American Film Festival. Winner of numerous Film Award for Best Documentary former organizer of the World Congress of imams and rabbis for peace co-founder of the Humming-Bird movement the cousin magazine. Many different interests. He speaks essentially about a collapse of civilization being defined as where natural resources are being destroyed faster than they can be regenerated.
Rise of social inequality and he refers to climate change or massive function as species pollution exploitation of people and nature deforestation has great problems facing our civilization. And he's very much driven to advance the public interest by presenting solutions through this film. Whether you go organic and local vegetarian eating less me contributing to a lot stronger local circular economy and he speaks about ameliorating the food shortage and our reliance on carbon based fuels that is leading to global climate change. And he even speaks about a spiritual crisis in which he's helping individuals call attention to what might be more meaningful in their lives than simply being a cog in a capitalist consumer driven society and economy.
So for Cyril it seemed as though he had the interest of public interest as best he can by in fact promoting changing agriculture economy by educating through film attempting to catalyze change and democracy promote transition in the use of energy sources for society and through all these solution oriented stories that he tells through his film.
He hopes to have a more lasting positive impact not only for all of society but he speaks concretely about creating a better world for his children and for the future generations to surreal I'd like to thank you so much for joining us today.