Al Gore Celebrates Manufactured Landscapes
Art is the cleanest form of recycling, showing us how to use the old to create something new. Former US Vice President, Al Gore, recycled his famous slide show into a troubling documentary. He got a lot more people talking green, and he won an Oscar in the process.
In a show of solidarity between Canada and the United States, Gore presented Canadian director Jennifer Baichwal with the Reel Current Award for her documentary, Manufactured Landscapes.
The film, featured at 2006 Toronto Film Festival, follows photographer Edward Burtynsky through modern day China. Through his lens we glimpse the country's struggle to balance political change, increasing development and waste management. An elderly Chinese woman squats in her front yard filled with discarded motherboards as she scrapes a stick across her blackened teeth. A family tears down their home brick by brick. They move each one to a new location out of their low lying valley doomed to flood because of construction.
Months after watching the movie these images still burn in my mind. Having visited China on several occasions, the beauty of the countryside and the immensity of its cities, mountains and manmade wonders still leave me breathless. I went to explore and live out an adventure, but as I traveled from Beijing to remote villages, I saw the beauty of this country beginning to descend into wasteland.
It's hard to imagine what will become of China considering more than half the world's discarded computers find their final resting place here. With a population of 1.3 billion, China dwarfs an American 300 million - but scientists predict China will surpass the U.S. in carbon emissions by 2009.
The director of the film choose not to spoon feed the severity of the problem, leaving the images to speak for themselves. If you live in the Toronto area, you can see Manufactured Landscapes at the Goethe Institute, 163 King St W, Toronto on May 17, at 7:45pm.
James W. Coates,
National Park Expert