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Documentary – Living Downstream

Posted Oct 17 2010 7:49pm

This afternoon I attended a screening, part of a five city tour, of the documentary Living Downstream. It is described as an exquisite blend of precise science and engaging narrative.  I absolutely have to agree.

At the showing was author, biologist, poet and human rights leader and champion  - Sandra Steingraber Ph.D.

( Sandra’s bio may not say she’s a human rights leader and champion – but I am saying she is!)

Also in attendance was the Producer/Director of the documentary  Chandra Chevanne s.

Founder of the Land Connectionaward winning author – Terra Brockman and three local organic farmers; Ron Ackerman , Henry Brockman , and Dave Bishop were there for a Q and A afterwards.

I can’t say what I expected. I was so moved by this documentary and also surprisingly outraged.

Sandra, the author of Living Downstream is from the region of the country I now live.  I have grown up in the midwest my whole life, and yet I look back and can see how much of my life I’ve lived with my eyes closed. I think about this often because I feel strongly that folks I like to label mainstream really don’t think about these topics

For me, I have had my personal journey as a young woman who appreciated let’s say a more natural childbirth, nursing vs bottle feeding, diapering with cloth and making my own baby food.

I like to say I walk to the beat of a different drum and always have.

I may educate about wellness, or prevention, or the value of nutritional supplementation. I might cook scratch and advocate the alternative food market. I might teach about which food additives to avoid and why. Yet this past year I have been exposed to more knowledge and things I didn’t have a clue about then ever before. I have to wonder if this is why I am placed here in this part of the country.

I am talking in particular about our large and bountiful farmers market, the chance to meet and know farmers with a rich devoted history to organics.  Smack in the middle of the corn belt. Smack in the middle of a not so organic place.

Perhaps I can be part of something that makes a difference. I am not sure what that actually is. I just know I have some experience to contribute. The piece about eating local and eating seasonally is possible here. Or at least possible to example.

I find it all so meaningful.

Living Downstream was filmed with a specific tone of bleakness.  If there was a hint of sunlight it was filtered only to cast brightness and shadow, not the sunlight we know to be joyous and warm.  I felt this tone in every part of me. The imagery was singular, remarkably poetic and often fluid – similar to the pathway any water stream might be. Yet it was always overcast and grey.  The experience of this stark often haunting expression really got to me. I was taken over and over by the pictoral choices in this film.

I was immediately impressed by Sandra, not because of her credentials but more by her humility, her humor and her triumphs.  I don’t have one single personal experience with cancer.  Yet it touched her entire family. Partly,  she feels because of the geography of where she and they live. Wow – this is now where I live.  I didn’t know.

I have worked with post chemo patients. I have helped and it’s been tremendously satisfying.

I just don’t personally know cancer like she does.  I guess at some level I like it that way. Often I feel like I don’t know what to say to someone who is going through this horrific disease. She languaged her many many years experiences in such a way I almost feel I know what to do now. I think I now know what to say. Or  I at least know what I think about t.

Mostly I feel a renewed energy for my work — especially in the realm of education.

I am not sure what exactly brought tears to my eyes, but at one point I thought my goodness this woman is going to make a difference on this planet and I want to tell everyone about what she is doing.

What angered me so so much was how much people don’t know.  Actually seeing the public spraying of DDT and other horrific chemicals while children play near by was totally shocking. Yet I completely  remember the mosquito truck spraying every summer when I was a kid.  I mean I can still imagine the smell of it. My life and my personal exposure to pollutants is huge.

In agriculture one  chemical is wreaking specific havoc. Atrazine. This remarkably widely used herbicide is an endocrine disruptor . In the film they shared consistent evidence of male frogs altered and acting like females- like producing eggs. Crazy.  This is part of Sandra’s mission. To outlaw the use of this chemical.

It’s already banned in Europe ( in 2004 ) Why not here?

The volume of what might need shifting is mind-boggling. I love how Sandra shared that each of us can work our particular causes and have a cumulative effect. Like the complex parts of a puzzle — truly in the end they all do create a finished piece.

What might be your mission surrounding this topic?

I can only encourage you to view this film. Read the book and share Sandra’s message with everyone you know.

One of the strongest connection to cancer is the foods we eat.  All of us can take steps to clean up our food act. We all know what to do. The farmers present today said our consumer dollars fuel what crops they grow. They stated emphatically that the entire world can be fed on organic farming. Wow – I so love this thought! We just have to take a stand, unite and say what we want. Could it be that simple?

I have been digesting and fueling the organic movement since the early 90′s and happily this is something I can see and be a part of and know I am making a difference. I also know I can teach others to do the same!

local community garden

image by karen hanrahan

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