UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

The Refugees of the Blue Planet

New documentary shows the plight of refugees

By Jocelyn Bell

The Refugees of
the Blue Planet
Directed by Hélène Choquette
and Jean-Philippe Duval
(National Film Board of Canada)


Back in 2003, the United Nations made a startling announcement: For the first time in history, the number of environmental refugees had surpassed the number of refugees related to war and political unrest — by two million people.

This fact forms the backbone of The Refugees of the Blue Planet, a well-crafted documentary that makes global statistics palpable and personal anecdotes memorable.

The film opens with an aerial view of Kandholhudoo Island, Maldives. From the airplane it looks like a tropical oasis. But as a boat, carrying an old woman named Soraya, pulls up to the shoreline, it is clear that the island has been destroyed by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. “This is our house,” Soraya says through tears as she picks through rubble in search of her possessions. “This is what happened to our house.”

The world’s 25 million environmental refugees include those displaced by natural and global warming-related disasters. But they also include people — mostly farmers —forced from their land to make way for agri-business.

To illustrate the latter, the documentary travels to Brazil, where pulp-maker Aracruz Celulose has planted eucalyptus trees as far as the eye can see. According to the film, the company bought out 100 villages to make way for its monoculture. Some of the former inhabitants migrated to city slums. Others stubbornly held fast to their land, but now struggle to survive alongside the water-sucking, pesticide-laden trees.

Just when the viewer starts thinking, “Thank God I live in Canada,” the filmmakers pop up in Alberta, where Big Oil is encroaching on the livelihood of cattle farmers by drilling sour gas wells near farmland. Sour gas, which contains highly toxic hydrogen sulfide, can be deadly if it leaks into the ground or air.

Ironically, environmental disasters in North America provide the only source of hope in the documentary. “If everyone is a victim, everyone will take action in the end,” asserts one of its experts. If not, the UN predicts our blue planet will have 150 million environmental refugees by 2050.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

A perfect send-off

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: A Tale of Two Cancers

by Observer Staff

Catherine Gordon's October 2017 feature for The Observer, 'A tale of two cancers,' recently caught the eye of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and his Washington, D.C.-based team, and inspired a short documentary. Gordon talks about the experience of writing the article and participating in the film.

Promotional Image

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

October 2017

A tale of two cancers

by Catherine Gordon

One year after the writer discovered she had breast cancer, her sister in California received the same diagnosis. They both recovered, but their experiences were worlds apart.

Society

November 2017

Trump country

by David Macfarlane

A northern Alabama county voted almost unanimously for Donald Trump in 2016. One year later, the writer, together with photographer Nigel Dickson, travels there to try to understand why.

Faith

November 2017

Involuntary pilgrim

by David Giuliano

The return of a tumour sets David Giuliano on a path he calls his ‘Camino de Cancer’

Faith

November 2017

Grey matter

by Trisha Elliott

Is consciousness just a function of the brain — or something more?

Promotional Image