The Struggle For Truth Between Science & Tradition

2 Mar 2017 2 Share

COASTALWATCH | INTERVIEW

Interview by Robbie Warden

ISLAND EARTH

A FILM BY EMMY-WINNER CYRUS SUTTON

Island Earth is a rich tale of a young indigenous scientist’s struggle for truth between science and tradition as he enters an industry that many feel is threatening his homeland. His complex journey through the inner workings of GMO chemical companies and traditional Hawaiian elders reveals ancient values that can save our future.

Upcoming Australian Screenings with Cyrus Sutton.

  • Bangalow A&I Hall screening
    Thursday March 2nd. Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm screening,
    Q&A with filmmaker Cyrus Sutton following screening.
    Tickets can be bought online through the Island Earth site, or at the door.
    Geoff Lawton to attend and potentially intro the film
  • Mullumbimby Civic Memorial Hall screening
    Sunday March 5th. Doors open at 6pm for a 6:30pm screening,
    Q&A with filmmaker Cyrus Sutton following screening.
    Tickets can be bought online through the Island Earth site, or at the door.
  • Noosa screening, March 7th venue TBC.

SEE ALSO: Pumping Waves On The NSW Mid-North Coast

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Cyrus Sutton

CW: Why did you decide to make this film?
CYRUS SUTTON: I’ve been coming to Hawaii for many years to surf as a teenager. I’d made friends in these travels who were involved in various environ- mental and cultural movements in in The Islands. After hearing about the widespread grievances of many local Hawaiians I packed my film gear and booked a one-way flight to Hawaii and spent three months camping and staying in hostels while interviewing people across Kauai, Maui, Oahu and The Big Island. After the first trip I edited together my findings and launched a Kickstarter Project to finish the project.

What was the experience of making the film like?
It was remarkable. I was driven to get to the bottom of the GMO con- flict which proved to be much more nuanced and required a lot more time and research than I originally anticipated. During the struggle to find an objective point of view however, I was constantly blown away by the level of compassion and wisdom of traditional Hawaiian values.

What did you learn during the making of this film?
I think I have less faith in the US Government and the ability of the reg- ulatory agencies like the EPA and FDA to protect us from industrial pol- lutants than I did at the start. I’m not one for conspiracy theories but the facts I uncovered about how our food system is run are troubling. On the other hand I’ve experienced the power of grassroots action both on our political system and in growing food. Once people strike down fear and apathy I’ve seen incredible things happen.

What do you want audience members to take away from the film?
That we can create the future we want, as messed up as things are we have the power to change things. But this change will only happen if we devote ourselves to the simple, monotonous challenge of meeting with each other and chipping away at solutions to empower each other and build the health of ourselves and our environment. Change isn’t always dramatic or exciting, it’s a simple devotion to empowering our- selves and our communities.

What are some things we can do to solve some of the problems laid out in the film?
You can go to the solutions and resources section of this website for more information. But basically I’ve been shown that change is going to come from getting our hands dirty. Whether that’s through involvement with local politics, standing up for our right to clean food and water, or support- ing community businesses who provide for our basic needs at a local level.

Why is there so much confusion around GMOs?
The best analogy I’ve read is GMO should been seen as a technolo- gy, not unlike nuclear power. Technology is a tool, devoid of values. Villainizing any technology based on it standalone merit is problem- atic because it ignores the ethics that accompany its use. Right now GMO technology is being deployed almost exclusively by a handful of the world’s largest chemical companies to alter plants to tolerate higher applications of chemicals that have long been proven to have toxic effects on humans and the environment. At the same time these companies’ PR teams deflect criticism by focusing the debate around the merits of the technology. The technology has been proven that it can be safe in growing food. This doesn’t mean that every variety of food produced will be safe. But the technology itself can’t be blamed, each result has to be tested for it individual merit. So far the vast ma- jority of crops that GMO technology has provided commercially (with the exception of BT Corn) have been altered to be sprayed with more chemicals. Confusing! And it’s supposed to be! Otherwise we would be very clear on why we don’t want these crops and the pesticide residues they are grown with in our bodies.

What are some things that have happened to the characters in the film since you finished shooting?
Cliff Kapono just got back from Europe while working on his thesis about the micro biome of surfers around the world. Dustin Barca is now raising grass-fed animals on an vacant piece of land near his home on Kauai. Malia is still working and raising her daughters. Gary Hooser did not get re-elected to the Kauai county council this past Novem- ber. Bernard Carvahalo is still Kauai’s mayor. The grassroots legislation across the Islands is still in limbo and has been determined that it’s the ultimate authority of the state to decide whether the laws are valid. So far there has been no progress beyond that.

Are GMOs all bad or do they have any benefits?
I think there can definitely be positive uses of the technology. I’ve per- sonally lost a lot of faith in the US federal agencies that are in charge of deeming things safe because of the long history of revolving door politics and lobbyist dollars causing conflicts of interest.

What are some of the local organisations in Australia you recommend viewers find out more information about sustainable permaculture? There are some amazing permaculture organisations that teach innovative solutions for growing food as a direct response to the problematic nature of our current industrial agricultural model. The best online course in the world comes from Geoff Lawton near Byron Bay at the Permaculture Research Institute and can be accessed through www.geofflawtononline.com and for more of a broad acreage approach check out Darren Doherty's Regrarians platform www.regrarians.org

For more info check out www.islandearthfilm.com


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