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On a quest to change the world

by admin December 1, 2009

Director Sylvie Van Brabant’s documentary Earth Keepers follows Mikael Rioux on a worldwide quest to find sustainable technologies that he can bring back to his hometown of Trois-Pistoles, QC.

Rioux is an eager and compassionate activist. He is likable and his enthusiasm for preserving the environment makes him an interesting subject for the documentary. He did a 40-day sit-in that was instrumental in the cancellation of a proposed dam, which would have damaged the river and forest around where he grew up. Maclean’s magazine once named him one of the top 50 Canadians under the age of 30 as a “do gooder.”

In Earth Keepers, Rioux first meets with 80-year-old Christian De Laet, the man responsible for the first-ever nationwide conference on pollution in 1967. De Laet gets Rioux in touch with Ashok Khosla, the president of Development Alternatives in India and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Rioux gets on a plane to visit him, but not without pointing out the irony of taking a plane half-way across the world in an effort to save the world.

The people Rioux meets in India are the most interesting. A 15-year old boy &- whose dream is to open an electronics store or become a driver – gets a job at an elementary school, sorting recyclables to provide for his family, because his father is no longer in the picture. The school has set up a program where nothing is wasted and everything is reusable. The school even produces its own paper.
The documentary shows an interview with Marilyn Mehlmann of Sweden, vice-president of the Union of International Associations, who provides the most insightful observation on people’s reluctance to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle. “Change happens when there’s a reasonable balance between dissatisfaction and hope. Too much dissatisfaction and no hope, then you have no possibility to change. All hope and no dissatisfaction, you have no reason to change.”

Yes, this is another documentary about how we are not doing enough to minimize our carbon footprint. Its message is clear: the damage is done, and our efforts cannot reverse the damage we’ve caused so far to the planet due to our ignorance and inaction. We are now far behind where we need to be in reducing harm to the environment. As Khosla says, “Doing that little green walk instead of going in a car isn’t going to be enough. We’re going to have to make some fundamental structural changes.”
The film uses the sharp and clever rhymes of poet Ivy, to paint a bleak picture of the present and future, throughout the film.

Earth Keepers does not break any new ground. If you have seen An Inconvenient Truth or The 11th Hour, there is no need for you to see this film, especially if you are looking for new information that hasn’t been widely circulated already. You might want to watch Earth Keepers, however, as it provides different perspectives on the issues of global warming and sustainability. The film’s high point is a lively and emotional retelling of 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai’s brave fight to plant more trees in Kenya.

Earth Keepers opens in Montreal on Dec. 4 at Cinéma du Parc and Cinéma Beaubien.

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