Climate Chaos in the South – documentary review

17 Nov

Photo courtesy of Wereldmediatheek vzw,

So we all know we’re meant to switch lights off, support wind power, reduce our carbon footprints, and be more environmentally aware in general.  But we’re not doing this to get thank you cards from polar bears or climate scientists.  So what are the actual human consequences of our effect on the climate and who is being affected the most right now? Climate Chaos in the South is a new documentary by Belgian filmmaker Geert De Belder, about the humanitarian impact of a problem that is too often made out to be an abstract scientific issue.

There are no polar bears or melting ice caps in sight, and there are no statistics and figures to impress us/confuse us and take attention away from the decidedly human story.  Climate Chaos in the South is essentially a 53-minute long collection of interviews with people from Burkina Faso, Togo, Ecuador and Bangladesh, describing how climate change has drastically altered their lives.

Photo courtesy of Wereldmediatheek vzw,

First off, this film is no guilt trip.  It doesn’t resort to dramatically portraying one group as the idiots and one group as the victims.  The victims here are shown more as survivors with a strong voice of their own.  There is little blame involved, mainly testimonies.  People describing how they are trying to survive with almost no food or fresh water, and the impossibility of building homes and farming with droughts several times a year or floods several times a month where previously there were none.

Photo courtesy of Wereldmediatheek vzw,

One man in Burkina Faso describes how the much older generation (well nourished in their youth when the climate was reliable) is often much stronger and healthier than the younger generation who haven’t been able to grow strong due to malnutrition.

Men and women in Ecuador describe how drinking and farming water is getting scarcer and scarcer, and how a whole vast area may have to rely on one person’s dwindling well.  They’re all things that are easy to dismiss from a distance, but as I sit here writing this blog post on my laptop in a comfortable chair, having just made myself a huge mug of tea, it’s actually damn hard to imagine the reality of having to instead walk 20km for a tiny amount of drinking water.  Especially if I had kids to look after.

The film was made on a small budget, so don’t expect breathtaking photography or super sleek production. But listening to the director talk afterwards, it’s clear he’d like the film to be a kind of rallying cry to wake people up to the human consequences of the environmental impact of our lifestyles.  It seems to me, however, he’s been most effective at offering a concentrated hour in which to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.  It’s up to us to decide if we want to do anything about it, but at least we know we’ve seen the problem from a uniquely human angle.

A few last words from the director about becoming more environmentally minded:  “This film shouldn’t make you depressed, but to think about for whom we are making these changes.” Word.

Photo courtesy of Wereldmediatheek vzw,

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