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French documentary on sustainability, ‘Tomorrow’ comes to OKC

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Sustainability advocates Pat Hoerth, Marcy Roberts, and Nathaniel Batchelder gather for a screening of "Tomorrow."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sustainability advocates from the metro gathered Tuesday night at the Oklahoma City University campus to view the documentary, Tomorrow (Under the Milky Way). The award-winning film focuses on community efforts to create solutions to social, economic, and environmental issues.

Tomorrow demonstrates the power of people, rather than corporations and governments, to solve crises in their communities. With municipal governments operating on shrinking budgets across Europe and the United States, citizens are forced to consider autonomous action to address everything from education and hunger, to land and air pollution. 

Transition OKC, Turtle Rock, 612, and the Urban Ag Coalition attended the film’s viewing hosted by OCU’s Mark Y.A. Davies, PhD, Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics. About 60 people attended the screening.

The food shortage

Tomorrow features several small farmers and community garden volunteers in Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. The film shows the power of the old way of farming, without wide row crops and heavy machinery.

Emerging in the film is a hot subject among sustainable farmers and gardeners called, “permaculture.” Growers cultivate produce in conjunction with other plants. For example, a farmer will grow a tall plant near a crop which requires shade. The goal is to use fewer chemicals, and more hand tools which decreases pollution. Permaculture advocates and farmers say these and other practices produce more food per square yard than commercial farming.

Permaculture is encouraging for those who fear the population growth will exceed food supply. A 2014 U.N. study which found that 80 percent of the world’s food comes from small farms. Reuters featured an article on the study, along with concerns regarding the rising cost of land which threatens the expansion of family farms.

The solution to the rising cost of land might just be found in community gardens. The film crew travelled to a garden in the U.K. which uses small plots of land and even earth between medians and sidewalks to grow food.

Pam Warhurst in Todmorden, UK said she and a friend wanted to have a positive impact in their community. They invited people in the area to meet regarding community gardening. They expected a handful of people, but were amazed when 60 turned out. Today they have “Incredible Edible,” a handful of food gardens managed by volunteers. “We didn’t start with saving the planet,” said Warhurst. “We just started where we are.”

Those who eat from these gardens are moving away from a table of grains, meat, and dairy to fruit, berries, and nuts; a diet believed to increase healthier outcomes and lower health costs.

Economic woes

When the collapse of the automotive crisis in Detroit decimated the economy, citizens eventually realized they were on their own to survive in the aftermath. D-Town (Detroit Town) is a seven-acre food garden run by volunteers. The food eases the financial burden to provide food for people without jobs.

Food gardens aren’t the only way cities are surviving the ups and downs of corporate fallout and global economic stress. Some cities in the U.K. are circulating their own currency. The “Tomorrow” film crew interviewed business owners who use a local currency, the Bristol Pound, to do business with other local suppliers. A bakery uses the currency to purchase from a paper goods company. A restaurant accepting the local currency purchases from the bakery. The result is a local economic ecosystem surviving autonomously, less dependent on the private banking system’s currency and credit.

In Bristol, UK, mayor George Ferguson requested city officials that he be paid in the Bristol Pound.

The environmental crisis

The film included the city of San Francisco’s recycling program, which boasts an 80 percent diversion rate. While critics say those numbers include heavy machinery and other materials, the documentary shows the city’s creative recycling solutions, such as capturing food for composting which is then sold to farmers.

In the interest of decreasing air pollution, Iceland, Copenhagen, and France were included in the film for their successes in clean energy. Solar, wind, water, and geothermal solutions have helped these countries reduce emissions by as much as 40 percent. Copenhagen, Denmark, and Reunion, France hope to be self-sufficient energy production by 2030.

Also among clean efforts, are these countries efforts to make their communities conducive to walking and cycling. Experts featured in the film estimated that 60 percent of today’s energy consumption can be avoided, with as much as 80 percent of energy being consumed for transportation.

The demand for different education model

In Espoo, Finland, a working class community, teachers are allowed to work with students in a manner that suits their learning styles and difference. The film shows students out of their chairs, talking with the teacher, with other students. Some students are seated on the floor, others are working with manipulatives, but staff said they are all learning.

The opposite model is more common, with students quiet and seated in tight rows facing a teacher at the head of the classroom.

A Finnish teacher in the film the model is more conducive to learning and building social skills. “The teacher is not like a god. We are all equal, all the same. It’s more free, open, and social. Students can talk, quietly of course, but they are allowed to talk with others. I think it gives students more confidence, and other skills to be with students, and learn from each other.”

There are also no standardized tests, a subject under critical examination in Oklahoma and across the US. “We don’t have standardized tests,” said the teacher, “we are too busy teaching.”

Smithsonian Magazine featured Finland’s turn around in educational success, citing the nation’s leading scores among 57 countries for reading, math, and science.

The power of community

The overall message of the documentary points to the power of community action and the deterioration of communities who are being drained by corporate greed and political corruption.

Marcy Roberts, with Green Connections, said the film inspires people to take charge of their communities with solutions. “It’s about bringing it back to community,” said Roberts, “implementing policies and projects around sustainability.”

Green Connections is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization devoted to ecological education and sustainable communities.

Roberts thanked Professor Davies, OCU and sustainability advocates. “We sincerely appreciate these community partnerships to help promote and educate the community on matters of environment, resiliency, and sustainability.”

Roberts said there are plans for more screenings. “We hope that people will walk away from this film with a positive outlook on how we can manage this planet,” she said.

The film screening was also timely for the upcoming Earth Day Celebration, slated for Friday, April 29 at 1 p.m. The celebration will kick off at the Harkins Plaza in Bricktown, Oklahoma City with activities for children and scheduled speakers. The Earth Day march will commence at 2 p.m. and conclude at the Devon Boathouse. BOLD OK, a coalition of Native American tribes, will perform a water ceremony.

For more information about the Earth Day Celebration March, visit Greenconnectionsokc.org For more information about “Tomorrow,” visit tomorrow-documentary.com.  

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Mindy Ragan Wood

Mindy Ragan Wood is a freelance writer and editor with a special interest in investigative and...

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