United Natures DVD

Helen Moore | Tuesday, 21st January 2014
Filled with evocative music, beautiful natural world imagery and interviews from environmental activists and philosophers, such as Polly Higgins and David Holmgren, this documentary explores the interconnectedness between us and the planet.
Author: Peter Charles Downey
Publisher: Permanent Publications
Publication year: 2013
RRP: £15.95

What are the underlying philosophies of the Green Movement? How do Gaian scientists and lawyers view our relationship with our planet? How can we understand the psychology of consumerism? If these questions interest you, then this unusual film, starring a host of the world’s foremost environmental activists and philosophers (David Holmgren, Starhawk, John Seed, Polly Higgins, to name but a few), will be top of your viewing list.

A sequel to Peter Charles Downey’s Anima Mundi film, which explored permaculture, United Natures carries the central message that everything in our planet is connected, but that Western thinking has created a state of ‘eco-apartheid’, encouraging us to live as if we were separate from the wider community of Life. The film is structured around a series of interviews, with a compelling skein of thought snaking through it – the director’s mindful editing allowing his interviewees to seamlessly reprise the various themes and questions.

The interviews are complemented by evocative music, images of the natural world, which are contrasted by archival footage of industrialisation and militarism, plus the charismatic clay sculptures of Australian artist, Bruno Torfs. With an otherworldly look, akin to the Na’vi-human hybrids in Avatar, Torfs’ figures have been filmed in the setting of his sculpture garden, which was destroyed by bushfires in 2009 and has subsequently been rebuilt.

The film does have a low-budget feel, but the director proudly describes it as “an independent, non-funded homemade production created with an extremely low amount of embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions compared to similar ‘green’ feature documentaries.” Unafraid to address some of the most difficult questions that environmentalists face, including the issue of eco-fascism and our complicity in the system we oppose, the film isn’t designed for a neophyte audience, and presumes a certain level of understanding – for example, Vandana Shiva opens the film by declaring that Quantum Theory is a serious break with Cartesian dualism, concepts that are never fully explained.

Nevertheless, the film serves as a wonderful visual stimulus to explore some of the most critical thinking of our day, and as such may be an excellent primer for sixth-formers or students in higher educational settings to explore ideas in permaculture, earth jurisprudence, social ecology, ecophilosophy etc. I could also imagine the film as a useful tool in Transition Town settings; being divided into chapters, it could be shown in stages, allowing time for rich discussion by an audience.

Helen Moore is an ecopoet based in Somerset. Her debut collection, Hedge Fund, And Other Living Margins, was published in 2012 by Shearsman Books: www.natures-words.co.uk