Tag Archives: Environment

Interview: Mikey Watts on Mining & Human Rights in Peru

19 Feb
All photos:  Mikey Watts 

On March 14, LAMMP (the Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme) is holding an international conference on ‘Mining, Women and Human Rights in Guatemala’. One person who’ll be filming there is young British documentary maker Mikey Watts, who I caught up with last week to talk about his last film and forthcoming projects.

I’d first heard about Mikey’s film Laguna Negra back in October. Perusing The Guardian, I noticed a video and article about alleged torture in the province of Piura, northern Peru, linked to a mining company called Monterrico Metals. It was a British company, and yet there was barely a whisper of news about it in the UK. In 2003 Monterrico had pressed ahead with a copper mine project that the local population had not agreed to. The mine was going to occupy vital agricultural land and would pollute the valley’s water sources. Monterrico had a legal requirement to obtain the consent of at least two thirds of the population. They didn’t, but were supported by the government nonetheless and so went ahead with the mine. In 2005, locals, including children and the elderly, made their way to the mining site in a last attempt to have their objections recognised. They were tear gassed, arrested and allegedly tortured by police and the mine’s security guards.

It was a Peruvian photographer friend, Adrían Portugal from the collective Supay Fotos, who first sent me a link to Mikey’s video on VimeoLaguna Negra is a 20-minute study of how mining has affected people in the Huancabamba valley, northern Peru. The film follows two people, Servando and Cleofé, as they describe their lives, land, protest, how they are perceived, and question the purpose of environmentally and socially destructive ‘development’. It has won a series of awards, including: Grand Jury Prize World Cinema Student at the Amsterdam Film Festival 2010, Best International Documentary (Festival Internacional de Cine de Lebu 2010), and the Rights in Action International Award (Bang! Short Film Festival 2009). I met Mikey last week to discuss how it all started, his stay in Piura, Huancabamba, the impact of and inspiration behind the film, and the projects he’s working on now.

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Sustainable Fashion – An Oxymoron?

18 Feb

Diamante2

Illustrations by Zoe Barker

Sustainable Fashion, what does that mean? This was the question posed by Vanessa Friedman at the beginning of London Fashion Week’s Estethica guide. I approached LFW with a fair amount of scepticism. Despite wearing my UK Press Pass with the secret pride reserved for a total LFW novice like moi, bien sûr, and being in total awe of how much work our fashion ed Rachael, all the writers, photographers and illustrators had put into it all, I was hesitant.

Is fashion that great? One part of me thinks it’s essential to be constantly re-inventing and changing things, challenging what we take as a given and celebrating new creativity. And that fashion is another form of individual and social expression and even a tool for rebellion against restrictive archaic norms. But another part thinks that the fashion industry is responsible for an attitude that waste is OK as long as it provides a fleeting moment of self-centred happiness, and that we need to be constantly re-inventing the way we look. That fashion stands for endless buying, and the sanctioning of a kind of mass egomania. Alternatively, it means the production of things that are so well made they will last forever, but which are destined for an elite few whose monthly wages allow for it. So should this kind of thinking now be greened and made sustainable? Hmm…it doesn’t really appeal. And, while it admittedly takes a very narrow view of fashion, I loved Tanya Gold’s blunt, honest piece on ‘Why I Hate Fashion’ in The Guardian a few weeks ago. It does raise the question though: what does fashion, let alone sustainable fashion, even mean?


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BTCV Green Gyms – Review

17 Feb

My muscles are aching as I type, my cheeks are glowing more than ever and I have a satisfied grin on my face…why?  I’ve spent half the day clearing woodland and sawing huge branches in the name of biodiversity and, admittedly, fitness…

hedge stage 1
All photos: Zofia Walczak

Today I took part in my first ever Green Gym session, an initiative run by BTCV (the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).  Funded by NHS Camden, the Green Gym is basically a combination of volunteering on biodiversity projects in London’s green spaces, getting a good work out and meeting new people.  As someone who detests gyms (positively loathes them), I was keen to find out exactly what these ‘Green Gym’ sessions entailed.  The thought of working out in a green area, fresh air and not doing exercise just for the sake of exercise appealed greatly.

I have tried gyms extensively, and failed.  Gyms make me feel tired and bored.  The constant monotonous whir of exercise bikes and running machines, coupled with people in their own bubbles looking stressed and thinking about other things, monitoring their heart rates and counting every calorie they burn makes me depressed.  Likewise, seeing my reflection in the mirror-covered walls everywhere I turn, under the unflattering lights that make everyone (even the buffest-looking posers in the highest-end gym wear) look like sad, old potatoes, has made me finally admit to myself that gyms are not the answer.  After a run in the park (rare, lately) I always feel energised and glowing, but the gym just makes me look and feel grey, sweaty and blotchy…more like I should be in bed on medication than like I’ve just had a 45-minute workout.

Green Gym area

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