Coextinction teaches viewers to “put the eco in economy”

Graphic: James Fay/The Concordian

The political-environmental documentary was presented on Nov. 7, for the first time at Concordia’s weekly Cinema Politica event

Coextinction, a 2021 film by environmental activists Gloria Pancrazi and Elena Jean is a beautifully shot film that primarily follows one of the few remaining pods of Southern Resident orcas on the coast of British Columbia and Washington. A group of scientists get down to the bottom as to why the orcas are sickly, famished and inevitably dying one by one. 

As the story goes on, the causes for the desperation of the orcas are unveiled. Pipelines, fish farms, cargo ships and dams alike are direct causes for the extinction of these whales. Along the way, the audience is introduced to many Indigenous activists who are equally affected by these government installations that are unjustly trespassing on their territories. 

Kwekwecnewtxw guardian Will George, a resistance leader and member of the Coast Salish Watch, was introduced in the documentary during his protest against the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. The pipeline was installed on the coast of the Burrard Inlet, which was property of his nation. 

(K’wak’wabalas) ‘Namgis Chief Ernest Alfred played a large role in the film by protesting against fish farms on Swanson Island, Discovery Island, and the Broughton Archipelago. His village, whose lifestyle centred around eating the fish that they catch naturally, was affected by the fish farms plaguing their local wild salmon population.

After Chief Alfred’s protests on Swanson Island, the archipelago has shut down 35 fish farms and counting.

“I wouldn’t feed it to my worst enemy,”  said Alfred in the documentary. 

“I was taught as a child that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada was the enemy. They stopped counting fish when I was about six years old. So there’s no problem,” said Chief Alfred. “Consistently, for the better part of the decade, we’ve seen 200-250 salmon in the territory. Since the removal of the Broughton Archipelago fish farms this year, the first generation of fish that have been able to migrate: 11,000.”

The ‘Namgis Chief explained that the world wants to hear what they have to say because their cause makes sense, and more importantly, that the economy does not drive this planet. “As soon as we put the eco back in the economy, we’re going to figure some things out,” concluded Alfred. “Go and sit with an Indigenous person and listen to them because we’re not trying to hoard and make money, we just think several generations ahead.” 

In a similar vein, resistance leader Will George was ignored by a large corporation known for their activism. George claims that Greenpeace put a heavy task on the backs of Indigenous militants like himself. According to George, Greenpeace took pictures of the blockades and banners he made and installed at his own risk, added a watermark and used it for their own benefits, and he hasn’t heard from them for years. 

“Far too often do our spiritual ones get arrested, and our holy ones get arrested,” added George. “They’ve criminalized me for witnessing the destruction of my land.” The Kwekwecnewtxw guardian had been sentenced to 28 days in prison for his acts of protest in defence of his nation’s land. 

“We have a simple philosophy here,” said Chief Alfred. “You can’t take without just saying thanks. Say thanks and have gratitude.”
For further information, you can visit Coextinction’s website.

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