By Jeriah Bowser
Yesterday evening, I did something revolutionary. Well, revolutionary for me, that is: I bought a movie. I haven’t bought a movie for over six years because, well, there’s just not that many movies I care to pay money for or watch more than once. I bought this movie because, after a friend showed it to me, I couldn’t form a coherent sentence for hours. I was horrified, fascinated, and inspired all at once; my mind and heart were reeling with the realization of what I had just witnessed, an awareness that I will never be able to look at our planet and its inhabitants in the same way again. I had just witnessed a coherent summary of humanity’s epic journey towards civilization, agriculture, technology, domination, and empire – and had peeked over the cliff at the terrible consequences we are about to face for our arrogant disconnection from Nature and each other.
The movie is “Fall and Winter: A Survival Guide for the 21st Century” and it is indeed just that – a survival guide for the coming age of societal collapse and the disintegration of our constructs of civilization, hierarchy, and superiority over Nature. Combining the wisdom of many of today’s elders from across the world that span political, social, and cultural gaps, “Fall and Winter” paints a thorough and compelling picture of an impending global collapse which will effectively end a 12,000-year-old human experiment known as civilization. The movie begins with a proclamation that Thomas Banyacya, a Hopi elder, delivered to the United Nations on December 10, 1992. In the incredibly powerful statement, Thomas addresses the governments and ruling bodies of the world, declaring that he came to ” carry the Hopi message of peace and deliver warnings from prophesies known since the time the previous world was destroyed by flood and our ancestors came to this land .” Thomas goes on to give a summary of the Hopi understanding of human history:
“…the creator made the first world in perfect balance where humans spoke one language, but humans turned away from moral and spiritual principles. They misused their spiritual powers for selfish purposes. They did not follow nature’s rules. Eventually the world was destroyed by sinking of land and separation of land by what you would call major earthquakes. Many died and only a small handful survived.
Then this handful of peaceful people came into the second world. They repeated their mistakes and the world was destroyed by freezing which you call the great Ice Age.
The few survivors entered the third world. That world lasted a long time and as in previous worlds, the people spoke one language. The people invented many machines and conveniences of high technology, some of which have not yet been seen in this age. They even had spiritual powers that they used for good. They gradually turned away from natural laws and pursued only material things and finally only gambled while they ridiculed spiritual principles. No one stopped them from this course and the world was destroyed by the great flood that many nations still recall in their ancient history or in their religions.
The Elders said again only small groups escaped and came to this fourth world where we now live. Our world is in terrible shape again even though the Great Spirit gave us different languages and sent us to four corners of the world and told us to take care the the Earth and all that is in it.
This Hopi ceremonial rattle represents Mother Earth. The line running around it is a time line and indicates that we are in the final days of the prophecy. What have you, as individuals, as nations and as the world body been doing to to take care of this Earth? In the Earth today, humans poison their own food, water and air with pollution. Many of us, including children, are left to starve. Many wars are still being fought. Greed and concern for material things is a common disease.”
Thomas brought with him a warning that proclaimed, unless humanity changes their ways and begins listening to the indigenous people and paying attention to the state of the world, “the great purification will come to destroy this world just as the previous worlds were destroyed.” Sadly, the United Nations hall was mostly vacant for the statement, and the few delegates present for the message did not appear too concerned or interested.
Thomas’ speech provides the backdrop for the rest of the movie, as we encounter a host of researchers, elders, professors, healers, journalists, activists, and authors who have also noticed the tendency towards destruction inherent in our culture. William Kotke illustrates the reality of social inequality and domination as an integral part of the logic of Empire, while Richard Manning documents the terrific toll the Earth has taken as a result of intensive agricultural techniques. Kirkpatrick Sale gives an excellent history lesson on the foundations of civilization and empire, Joseph Tainter shares his research on the collapse of industrial societies, and Michael Parenti illustrates the role that Capitalism plays into this giant mess: converting Nature into a commodity, and then into dead capital. Chris Hedges and Ed Stivers expose the tools of media and technology for being complicit in this process – in creating the most comprehensive propaganda machine ever witnessed in human history. Ed Naranjo, Ernest Northrup, Kevin and Margaret Curole, Dean Blanchard, John Tubuwa Golumo, and Richard Feldman share personal experiences of witnessing incredible suffering around the world at the hands of this culture, as they tell stories of environmental catastrophes, genocide, famine, war, and the collapse of entire communities of life due to the selfish and sociopathic actions of a few rich and powerful people and corporations.
John Jeavons, a leading researcher and developer for Grow Biointensive mini-farming, sums up the first half of the movie with a darkly sobering statement: ” The whole planet’s gonna be a desert in 70 years… there’s as little as 33-49 years worth of farmable soil left in the world. In the case of water, up to two-thirds of the world’s people are at risk by 2025. I mean, it’s really, we’re talking serious shit here. “
Yet the movie doesn’t end there. Amidst all the horror and chaos and destruction that is right around the corner, there is also hope. We are introduced to communities of people who are actively creating a new world, who are actively attempting to learn from the mistakes of the past, and who are committed to not only surviving the coming collapse, but thriving in it. We meet Michael Reynolds, who is teaching the art of building with the earth, not against it. He uses ‘trash’ and natural building materials such as sand, dirt, and hay to build incredibly beautiful and functional houses for those who are either consciously against or can’t afford industrial housing. We learn how John Jeavons is developing farming techniques that work with natural processes and which don’t deplete top-soil or precious supplies of water, thus making them sustainable and a viable food source for humans in a future without Wal-mart or Taco Bell. We admire the wisdom and skill of Ianto Evans, who teaches people how to build houses and lives that exist outside of the industrial complex which thrives off of consumption and waste. And we hear from John Zerzan that a return to the old ways may indeed be the answer to our future.
Betsy Perluss shares her work with traditional rite of passage ceremonies and reveals how humanity might be entering our own rite of passage as a species, but not without intense suffering and a death to the old ways in order to give birth to a new way of being. Stanislav Grof, a leading psychiatrist and founder of transpersonal psychology, introduces a new way of being which needs a new language to begin to understand it – thus his term “holotropic,” which means “moving towards wholeness.”
In a time when the environmental crisis is growing exponentially every day, where seasons are ceasing to be defined and water shortages ravage the earth; in a time when we are seeing massive die-offs of the ocean’s life forms and biodiversity, and entire coral reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate; in a time when climate change is no longer a fringe opinion but a sobering reality, there is perhaps no more topic or issue that needs immediate attention than this. Humanity is facing extinction, and we just might take the rest of the Earth along with us.
It is for this reason that I bought this movie. I bought it to show my friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors, and anybody who will watch it with me. I bought it so that we can no longer claim ignorance as to what we are participating in and creating. If we must self-destruct, then I demand that we at least do so consciously. We must know the truth. You must know the truth. To fail to look, to listen, to think, to feel, and to face reality is to fail your duty as an inhabitant of Earth.