At Sundance London, Prince Charles' new documentary sparks ForestEthics discussion
The documentary, starring Prince Charles, takes audiences from England to India to Mississippi to British Columbia as it explores different approaches to sustainability.
The documentary features the collaborative model that resulted in the 2006 and 2009 agreements to protect 5 million acres of BC's Great Bear Rainforest. The collaborative effort is celebrated for the unlikely and successful partnerships that resulted in the agreements, and is used as an example to advocate for sustainability-focused collaboration between government, non-profits, corporations, businesses and communities.
At the heart of the segment is controversy-embroiled organization, ForestEthics. In a question and answer session following the film, filmmakers Stuart Sender and Julie Bergman Sender commented on recent threats to ForestEthics' charitable status.
"ForestEthics has taken on some business interests and there have been some campaigns around the tar-sands oil-sands and oil that is coming out of Canada. I do think that they have been at the centre of addressing and raising awareness in the same way they were part of it around the Great Bear Rainforest by engaging with business and industry, and I think the government is not that happy about it," said Stuart Sender.
Clarifying that her views do not reflect those of the film or Prince Charles, Julie Bergman Sender added:
"Forest Ethics and other groups that are working with them in this network in Canada are doing a new model and new models are threatening to people in authority, so I would just say that in a way it is an emblem of their affect that certain forces within the organized government are challenging them, because they are challenging everybody else."
Opposition to sustainability was a key challenge addressed in the film and during the evening's speeches. In his introduction of Prince Charles, Robert Redford said, "I think he has been ahead of the curve, he has been way ahead and I know what the feeling is to be ahead of something and be castigated for what you are saying, as though you are trying to hold progress back."
Prince Charles offered his own refute to attacks against advocates of sustainability. "As you can imagine, if you suggest something like this (fighting climate change), you are automatically considered to be a threat you are anti-everything, anti-capitalism. You are anti-everything. The point I've been trying to make for a very long time is actually if you think about it, capitalism depends, at the root of it all, on nature's capital."
Prince Charles advocates for "a new paradigm for the 21st century", in which human beings can co-exist in harmony with nature: hence the film's title.
"We need to find a new economics that reflects and mirrors nature's economy more successfully so that we do actually value nature's capital and we cost the damage we are doing to this earth in such a way that we devise innovative market mechanisms and financial mechanisms to do so, and to reward those who are actually doing the right thing. To build up nature's capital from which we draw an income. At the moment we are just living on capital and most of the experts will tell you, that ain't a sensible thing to do in the long run," he said.
The new paradigm draws from examples found in communities around the world. Examples are drawn from organic farmers in Louisiana, salvaged and restored material from the lower ninth-ward of New Orleans, female-lead businesses in India, bio fuel, offshore wind farms and biomimicry. The film conveys a pressing need for not only for a new economic approach to the environment, but also a personal approach that values and respects the environment, an approach exemplified in the film by the Gitga'at people of Hartley Bay BC.
"If we fail nature, we fail humanity. We don't have to fail," said Prince Charles.