Island Earth: Change The Way We Grow And Consume Food
“How are we going to feed the world without destroying the planet we live on?”
This is the question Oregon-based filmmaker Cyrus Sutton takes on with his latest documentary, Island Earth. The film follows three Hawaiians – Malia Chun, Cliff Kapono, and Dustin Barca – as they work to address the uncertain future of the island’s food production. Through the expansive cornfields of GMO companies and the loi patches of traditional Hawaiian elders, Island Earth uncovers modern truths and ancient values that together, could provide some of the answers we need.
“I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some of America’s leading scientists, doctors, and journalists to learn firsthand about the complex systems that produce our food,” said Sutton, who won an Emmy award for his writing and cinematography on Next Wave: A Tsunami Relief Story for Fox Fuel TV. “To transform our food systems into resilient ecosystems that support human health and nurture our environment takes creativity and passion.”
Sutton grew up in Southern California, in a world dominated by strip malls and commercialized suburbs. Hawaii, to him, offered a glimpse into what the world could be – lush, fragrant, and vital. The island also gave Sutton a new perspective on the meaning of wealth – one that doesn’t depend on money, but rather on clean water, fresh air, and verdant landscapes.
“A few years ago, I heard that this paradise was being poisoned by chemical companies testing their GMO crops,” Sutton said. “Shocked by the lack of media coverage and the misleading information, I decided to do something.”
Conventional farming practices around the world are eroding the planet’s most fertile soils and depleting natural resources faster than we can ever hope to replenish them. The answer to this was supposed to be GMOs – but according to Sutton, while the pros and cons of these chemical solutions remains heavily debated, their primary purpose seems to be to sell more herbicides.
“90 per cent of the world’s seeds are owned by a handful of the world’s largest chemical companies,” Sutton said, adding that according to the New York Times, herbicide use has increased by 20 per cent since GMO herbicide resistant seeds were introduced 20 years ago. “This is the heart of the GMO issue: I believe it’s not necessarily the technology itself, but the way the technology is being used.”
This issue is especially pressing in Hawaii, which Sutton describes as a “complex web of public policy and private interests.” In the span of two generations, the island has gone from providing enough food for its large population through some of the most historically sustainable agricultural practices ever documented, to importing nearly 90 per cent of its food supply from other parts of the world.
“Hawaiians have become canaries in the coal mine for food issues that are affecting the entire planet,” Sutton said. “This film captures our moment in time, where two separate paths are being forged at once: one that builds upon the past in the name of progress, and the other that rejects the past in the name of progress.”
Island Earth tells the story of Hawaii’s dramatic shift away from sustainable agriculture through three unique voices – members of a growing movement of individuals who are frustrated by an industrial agricultural system that depends on chemicals and fossil fuels.
Malia Chun, a Hawaiian cultural practitioner and educator in Kauai, saw first-hand the impact GMOs can have on societies. After watching her family fall ill because of the pesticides used on the GMO crops that replaced the sugarcane fields adjacent to her home, Chun joined Hawaii’s growing anti-GMO movement.
With a Masters in Biotechnology already under his belt, Cliff Kapono is currently completing a PhD in Chemistry. Kapono’s story follows his journey to become a positive force in the Hawaiian agri-business industry. Mayoral candidate Dustin Barca, a professional MMA fighter and former professional world tour surfer, is using his voice to speak out against the questionable connections between his local government and major GMO corporations.
These young Hawaiians are hoping to encourage a shift back to the sustainable agriculture of the past, enabling the island to emerge as a beacon of optimism for the future of our planet’s food production. According to Free Surf Magazine, the documentary will hopefully “change the way we grow and consume food” – a much-needed shift, if current projections are any indication.
To feed all the humans on the planet, we are going to have to grow as much food in the next 35 years as we have grown since the beginning of civilization, (The film) bears witness to the choices we are making today that will affect our future no matter what.
To address the issue of sustainable food production on a more personal level, Sutton has gotten involved with organizations in his local area that help provide for the basic needs of the people within his community – using methods that are beneficial to the land and the health of the population. Sutton said he has been especially inspired by the creative solutions offered by permaculture and regenerative agriculture organizations.
Through a partnership with The Ecology Centre, a leading ecological education center, Sutton has even compiled a manual to hopefully inspire other individuals to step up and become a part of the solution – to get our hands dirty, for the planet’s sake.
“Growing food, celebrating with loved ones, and supporting local organic agriculture is our path forward,” he said. “Today, we offer a simple and practical guide to co-creating a better world. Dig in.”
Island Earth is currently touring Australia, with a screening at:-
Byron Bay, NSW, Australia Saturday Feb. 25, 2017 12:15pm Byron Bay Surf Film Festival The Byron Bay Community Centre, 69 Jonson St, Byron Bay NSW 2481. Q&A with Cyrus Sutton.
Bangalow, NSW, Australia Thursday Mar. 2, 2017 6:00pm Bangalow A&I Hall Q&A with Cyrus Sutton and Geoff Lawton. Doors at 6pm, Screening at 6:30pm.
Mullumbimby, NSW, Australia Sunday Mar. 5, 2017 6:00pm Mullumbimby Civic Memorial Hall, 55 Dalley Street, Mullumbimby, NSW 2482 Q&A with Cyrus Sutton. Doors at 6:00pm, Screening at 6:30pm.
Noosa Heads, QLD, Australia Tuesday Mar. 7, 2017 7:30pm Halse Lodge Presented by Noosa Festival of Surfing. Q&A with Cyrus Sutton.
Tickets for the event are $10 and will be available for purchase both online (here) and at the door. Profits from the film will go towards supporting education and to those families who have been directly affected by pesticide exposure.
For more information, more screening times and locations or to find out when the whole film will be available, visit http://islandearthfilm.com/connect/