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Is Wall Street killing the environment?
That’d be one of the big questions posed in the new documentary, Surviving Progress, which opens Friday Dec. 2 at the always funky and fascinating Rio in Vancouver and the Cumberland Four in Toronto. And considering what’s been happening lately in Zuccotti Park and around the world it’s tough to believe the movie is pre-Occupied and that it wasn’t filmed over the last few months, not the last half dozen years.
Back in September I interviewed the movie’s co-director Harold Crooks in the artist’s lounge at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and wrote a story about this thought-provoking documentary for the always-wonderful Tyee. You can click to check out that story here.
Harold and I talked for about an hour and I thought I’d share a few of his comments that didn’t make it into my original story. Here are a few of his thoughts on some of the real life players in the movie.
On hanging out with eco-cops in Brazil
First of all, it was a remarkable experience to be in an environment where the eco-cops themselves had to be protected by special military units because of the nature of the conflict between the environmental and industrial policies of Brazil which are diametrically opposed to each other. In fact, Marina Silva, who is in our film, resigned as Brazil’s Minister for the Environment when she could no longer justify her existence, given the priveliging of industrial policy, particularly in the Amazon, over environmental protection. So that conflict lives itself out in the Amazon in terms of almost a civil war state between people whose livelihoods are dependent upon the exploitation of the forest, and those who are trying to slow down the rate of deforestation.
So you have the eco-cops who have the latest technology, they’re using satellite monitoring to identify where deforestation is taking place, and then they target their raids and you see this in the film, the satellite monitoring and how the eco-cops are using their laptops to identify the location of the next operation.
They took us to a sawmill in the film, you see the aftermath of that in terms of the laying-off of people whose livelihoods are dependent upon it, which ultimately raises questions that take us back to North America, back to an economic model in place — now globally — going on to the capitalist path with all that has to say about the short-term exploitation of global resources.
His fave interview
We were very lucky. She’s on the road something like 250 days a year. We were lucky to secure an interview with her at the end, when we heard she was going to be in Toronto.
His most surprising interview?
When we met Michael Hudson, this brilliant economist, economic historian, he’s the one who introduces us to the whole subject of debt pollution and the ecological impact of Wall Street. We imagine, because he began his career as a young man working for the Chase Manhattan Bank and for David Rockefeller that there must have been a “road to Damascus” transformative moment in his life before he became a radical economist. So on the way to the interview — he lives in Forest Hills in New York, and we were going to interview him in Manhattan — on the cab coming into the city he tells us he’d seen The Corporation.
In The Corporation, the largest manufacturer of carpets in North America, Ray Anderson, tells the story of his transformation and his sense that the present capitalist model was just not sustainable, and the impact coming to that realisation had upon him. And in the film, The Corporation, which I worked on, we always referred to him as “the Carpet Man.” And when the film came out, he was a character in the film who really resonated with audiences. This man is a capitalist and he’s critiquing the system as absolutely unsustainable, warning that we’ll look back in 100 or 200 years — assuming that we’ve gotten off this path — with a certain sense of awe and shame. Anyway, I assumed that Michael Hudson was going to be our Carpet Man, the man who had this remarkable “road to Damascus” transformative moment to tell us, which would have been terrific in the film.
And I said, “Well, Michael, would you be prepared in the interview to talk about how you got from working for David Rockefeller to, today, your critique of financial capitalism? You know, your transformative moment?”
And he said to me, “What are you talking about?”
I said, “You know, your road to Damascus moment.”
He said, “There was no road to Damascus moment. I’m Leon Trotsky’s godson.”