FOR A TOXIC FREE WORLD!

Pankajbala R Patel says we should see more environment-related documentary films to convert us into making lifestyle changes which will help create a healthier, happier world to live in….there was an environmental film festival in town courtesy the Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link supported by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

Toxics Link Environmental Film Festival: Documentary films worth making time to see just so that we understand what an insensitive human civilization we have become with our insufferable mod con attitude towards life on earth. There were some positive, heartwarming films too, e.g. ‘The Birdman of Chorao’, ‘The World’s Most Famous Tiger’, ‘India’s Healing Forests’

CATCH a cache of films dedicated to making us realize just how much of a mess our world is in and it leaves one feeling like you know what. We, the people of the good earth, are our own worst enemies. Also, Mother Earth’s biggest enemies! For our increasingly technology and 3G, 4G, 5G and more to come-driven mod con civilization is turning the earth into a toxic place and consequently an increasingly unhealthy and unhappy world. Are we conscious of this and how much are we conscious of this?
Despite the many NGOs today which are trying to show us the way out of certain death? An irony, for on one hand our medical sciences are working overtime researching longevity, while on the other hand medical waste and e-waste is one of the critical issues taking a toll of our health parameters. Toxics Link, Delhi-based environmental NGO, seeking environmental justice and freedom from toxins to live healthily and happily brought a film festival of exclusively environment-related documentaries to Goa.
The Toxics Link one-and-half-day eco film festival held at the ESG’s Maquinez Palace auditoriums were shocking eye-openers and frankly, more Goans could have turned up to see the documentary films of varying duration. Our oh so smart and clever civilization is hell-bent on turning earth, air and water – life’s primaries which were once so abundantly life-giving – into toxic poisons taking a toll of yes, we, the people. It is time to stop, think anew about how easy we want to make our lives at the expense of the very elements which make life on earth possible.
Not all the documentaries filled one with futile rage! ‘The Birdman of Chorao’ and ‘India’s Healing Forests’ were good feel messages that all is not lost yet as they dwelt lyrically on how Goa is still a bird watcher’s paradise and we need more tourists who come looking for birds (of the feathered variety of course)…Uday Tukaram Mandrekar, the boatman of Chorao tells us how from 1990 onwards he took to guiding foreign tourists into the inland waterways of Chorao island to see birds, “I started doing this and then they sent their friends to look me up when in Goa…all want to see birds of Goa.”
Then ‘PM 2.5’ focused on how much more fine particle dust we’re breathing day in and day out on our streets and how this has a bearing on our respiratory ailments. Other films followed — The Pangti Story’,Where Every Drop Counts’, Living Toxic: Russia’,Global Warning: Kashmir Chapter’, Missing’,Taming the Teesta’, Toxics Trail’,The Silent Epidemic’, Smog Wars.’ And finally the 60-minute National Geographic treat,The World’s Most Famous Tiger’ – Machli is the queen of Ranthambore National Park which is possibly even today the best place to see tiger alive. It is insightful film of a tiger, Machli (really the world’s most famous tiger, her pictures adorn walls of railway stations in India!) who spawned four litters in these forests. Her progeny continues to roam in search of coolness in the water, peace in the ramparts of an ancient fort here. A most touching, sensitively made film by directed by S Nallamuthu, recounted in part through the eyes of a Ranthambore forest guard keeping track of the life and times of Machli in youth, middle and old age, when blinded by cataracts, loss of her teeth, she is no longer able to hunt). Tigers are the last symbols of our wilderness so long may we hang on to them.
All the documentary films linger in the mind and I’d say environmental films are the best genre of films to catch up with the crass and gross misdeeds of our life and times. The Pangti Story’ tells the story of Gyamo, a snow leopard up in the austerely beautiful mountain landscapes of Ulley Valley at 14,000 feet in Ladakh (the film also gives an idea of the life of Mike and Gautam Pandey, son and father team who’ve been photographing wildlife for decades). Global Warning: Kashmir Chapter’ recounts finely how even small changes in the temperature can lay waste an entire orchard of cherry trees and spell doomsday for the orchard owner…Taming the Teesta’ is about how monstrous hydroelectricity dams on the river Teesta are displacing, destroying the humble livelihood of people and will in the long run also destroy the river, says one feisty resident, “We will sell our beauty but not our land!” Not funny, even the pitiful compensation money paid to those who sell their land is grabbed by the middlemen who fix the land deals. The most horrible film offering insight into our deteriorating world and earth isLiving Toxic – Russia’ in which we see how a “secret” nuclear tragedy takes a toll of people’s health and life in the early 50’s. In the wake of this tragedy 42 cities are declared as secret cities, even if you talk about them you may be arrested! That’s Russia for you. These are the most infernal places in Russia and one place where the river Techa runs…radioactive waste has infiltrated into its water, water on which several generations of people depend on to live — and die. Nuclear plant leakages and what follows can be catastrophic as we have seen, the consequences must surely continue to haunt us enough to realize that there is no such thing as nuclear energy for peace on earth.
One of the 14 documentary films screened in this Toxics Link film festival depicts how e-waste is dismantled for precious parts in Delhi’s horrible work sheds, an expose of an informal business where young people eke out a pitiful livelihood — even as their health gets sabotaged early in life because they working in dreary conditions without any protective equipment. Do you know that shiploads of e-waste from the UK comes to Gujarat to be dismantled for petty gains in Delhi’s e-waste business opportunities?
The Toxics Link selection of films detail the immediate and long term effects of human and natural processes on our planet’s eco-system and how it affects us all locally. After viewing some of these films one cannot help but wonder about how as a people we may be more connected – but have we also along with all that become less caring? Also how will this narrative of our deteriorating environment keep unfolding in the near future as we worry more about politics and less about our global warming which touches us all…the poor and voiceless more so. The rich may insulate themselves but for how long?
Toxic chemicals are infiltrating everywhere in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. Any wonder we’re becoming sick human beings caught in epidemics of disease globally? One of the Toxics Link message going out through such film festivals is, “You don’t need to be an environmentalist to be bothered about the environment!” Implying that as conscientious individuals we need to make vital eco-friendly and therefore health-friendly changes in the way we live our capitalist, consumerist lifestyles? Think about it and don’t just sit there thinking while the world and the earth as we know it sinks away into oblivion. Just a blink in the eye of time!

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