New documentary contrasts industrial ag with traditional Hawaiian model: ʻĀINA

This short film, while focused on the island of Kauai, highlights the challenges and crises we will all have to face on our island planet.

When we lose sight of the importance of taking care of the Earth that feeds us, we sign our own death warrant. That's one of the messages presented in a powerful new documentary, and it may seem ridiculously obvious to those who are working diligently toward sustainability on a global scale, but for many people, the connection between our individual lives, our environment, and how we produce our food and energy isn't nearly as transparent or important as it should be.

Like many films about food and farming and the environment, I think everyone who eats should watch them, and this new documentary from Living Ancestors and Sherpas Cinema is no different, as it's well worth the 20 minutes or so it takes to watch it. It's called ʻĀINA: That Which Feeds Us (ʻĀINA means "that which feeds us" in the Hawaiian language), and it offers a powerful look at the effects of our industrialized food system.

Although this film focuses specifically on the crises facing the island of Kauai, Hawaii, it also serves to highlight our global situation, with Kauai as the microcosm and the Earth as the macrocosm, and the pressures and influences that are present in Hawaii are also present at many other locations around the world.

"Shot on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, the film starkly contrasts today’s industrial agricultural model with the traditional Hawaiian model, showing that the latter offers a way forward to a healthier and more sustainable global food production system."

In the green media, we've spent years writing about the relationship between our habits/choices and the collective impact of all of our choices on the environment, but outside of the green bubble, the understanding of certain 'big picture' issues is marginal at best, even though every single one of us will be affected in the near future by the impacts of our current policies and practices.

After spending almost a decade in the organic and natural foods industry, and becoming heavily involved in local food issues, I was pretty sure that what we call industrial agriculture was a blight on the planet, and that "factory farms" were to blame for the majority of certain environmental and social ills, while conveniently ignoring the fact that large-scale agriculture is absolutely necessary in order to feed an exploding population in an industrialized world.

While I maintain that small farms and urban ag and resilient local food systems are key elements of a sustainable food security strategy, and I remain a strong proponent of the principles of organic farming, I also accept that we're a far cry from being able to feed everyone with rooftop farms and countertop auqaponics units, and that ultimately, we need to find a balance of both small and large ag practices that can feed us sustainably, without robbing from tomorrow to feed us today.

That's not to say that I think big ag should be continuing with 'business as usual,' because it's becoming more and more apparent that we need to adopt practices in large-scale agriculture that don't pollute the water or air, that builds soil and nurtures soil health, that is increasingly drought-resilient, and that interfaces with the natural ecology in a way that's much less destructive than it is now. Some of those practices may come from traditional and indigenous agriculture, and some of them may come from advancements in our scientific understanding of the soil food web and the carbon cycle and other correlated disciplines.

That's not going to happen overnight, and it's not going to happen if we as the consumers aren't demanding it, which is why I believe that every documentary that shines a light on the negative environmental and social impacts of our food system, and presents an alternative vision, is yet another step forward for the world as a whole. Of course, producing the films is only the beginning, as we still need people to watch them and think about them and talk about the issues, and to then take action in their own lives toward a more sustainable world.

So go ahead, take 20 minutes out of your busy life to watch ʻĀINA: That Which Feeds Us, and then ponder how the issues in the film relate to your own life and habits, and what changes you can make to support resiliency and sustainability in the food system.

Tags: Documentaries | Food Security | Hawaii

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