Friday, July 10, 2009



Trying to stay informed and sane at the same time seems impossible. Just when I'd spent five days following the Iran protests (even started a Twitter account to do that), I watched a movie about how close our planet is to being utterly depleted. By us. At the Group of 8, China and India refuse to commit to a plan to reduce carbon emissions and lower the global temperature by two degrees. Remember who else refused to participate not too long ago? Oh yeah, there are other problems in the world too (stretching my neck side to side, right shoulder, then left). I don't mean to be harping on this being overwhelmed thing. It is what it is: a devastating, overwhelming planet.

Peter in Paris had told me it was to be June 5 - World Environment Day - when Yann Arthus-Bertrand (of the NGO GoodPlanet) would release his film HOME that had taken 18 months to shoot in 54 countries entirely from a helicopter and is completely copyright free and not-for-profit. I could have watched it then on my computer, or on TV, but I waited for it on my Netflix queue.

In the first few minutes the photography was gorgeous, but the pace felt plodding and the mystical Gaya music a tedious cliche. I started folding laundry, telling myself to stick with it, it was my duty. Then Glenn Close's voice and Arthus-Bertrand's saturated images slowed me down seductively, horrifyingly.

I left the pile of towels and took a seat. Don too sat down to watch and listen. As we watched we continuously paused the DVD to absorb what had just been said or shown, to lock eyes in stunned disbelief, or to discuss.


In 200,000 years on earth humanity has upset the balance of the planet, established by nearly four billion years of evolution. The price to pay is high, but it's too late to be a pessimist: humanity has barely ten years to reverse the trend, become aware of the full extent of its spoilation of the Earth's riches and change its patterns of consumption. By bringing us unique footage from over fifty countries, all seen from the air, by sharing with us his wonder and his concern, with this film Yann Arthus-Bertrand lays the foundation stone for the edifice that, together, we must rebuild.

The photography itself is extraordinary art. Entirely shot from a bird's eye view, some scenes appear artificial, such as the iceberg island in the top photo or the heart below.

Like me, you'll choose to watch this or not. But let me say, I thought it would be "preaching to the choir." I mean, I'm already convinced we have to change our carbon emitting and consumer driven ways. But this film puts visuals on the data, and it's chilling.

The movie HOME isn't just about eating sustainably and locally grown food, but it's one issue I can focus on. I am more convinced than ever to buy every morsel of food locally that I can. One protein source for us that uses land more efficiently than beef or pork (as for chicken, Don raises our own) : Michigan beans. Check out a big list of delicious-sounding recipes from the Michigan Bean Commission (which allows no GMOs, by the way). One of them is below, though I haven't tried it yet.

I was happy to learn from some post-HOME-movie digging that wild caught Pacific salmon is pretty much sustainable. I'm still not in love with having it shipped all the way from Alaska to my door in Michigan, but at least it's riding on a plane with a lot of other goods. I hope.

It's an overwhelming planet we live on. It has abilities to heal itself in ways we haven't discovered yet, almost miraculously with its dazzling Life. I hope it isn't too late for us human beans.

Navy Beans and Eggplant Curry

1 (16-ounce) can navy Beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons oil, divided
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup vegetable stock
2 carrots, sliced
2 cups potatoes, diced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
2 cups onions, chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 medium zucchini, sliced
2 cups tomatoes, peeled and chopped, reserving liquid
1/4 cup raisins
8 tablespoons plain lowfat yogurt

Place eggplant cubes in a colander and sprinkle evenly with salt. Set aside for 30 minutes to dry. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add eggplant and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and set aside. Heat remaining oil in skillet and add curry, cumin, garlic, and pepper. Stir in stock, and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes, green pepper, onions, and cauliflower. Cover and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Return the eggplant to the pan and add beans, zucchini tomatoes, and raisins. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


Pat said...

What a chilling, yet "SIT UP AND PAY ATTENTION" post. I'll have to watch that movie. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

CottageGirl said...

Amazing pictures of our changing world.

Thanks, Ruth, for telling us about the film. I'll be watching it soon.

renaye said...

it is horrifying. i actually just blogged on something on environment particularly on food.

Loring Wirbel said...

Thanks for the movie recommendation and the curry recipe. Odd how they flow from one to the other.

ds said...

Ten years--not even a generation. That is scary. And while I have great hopes for the generation immediately behind us (we raised these incredible people--how did that happen?), I worry that we, and the generations before us (they unwittingly) have undone ourselves anyway. Thank you for the wake-up call.
Curry recipe looks wonderful...

photowannabe said...

Stunning pictures and definitely a wake up call. Thanks for the movie reccomendation.
Your recipe sounds wonderful.

Ruth said...

Pat, at times watching the film I felt hopeless and helpless. But I have to believe that what I do matters, and live that way.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl - even the images of the ravaged earth were beautiful, which made it even worse in a way.

Ruth said...

Renaye, I read your post and watched the video. Thank you. I tried again to leave a comment, but it never loaded after a long time.

Ruth said...

Loring, so much of the time I am just frozen, and I spout words more than do something with my hands and heart. Making the curried beans makes me feel I'm helping. If I think too hard about it, I'll get lost in the ocean of bullshit, to which I also contribute.

Ruth said...

DS, some people say it's already too late. I don't know what that means, that we will now just self destruct?

Oh I just read the most wonderful Osho piece. I'm trying to figure out how to post about it. How did we get ourselves into these messes?

Ruth said...

Sue, I'll try to make the recipe next week. We have house guests, and it sounds like it might go pretty far. I think it would be good on rice.

And I can't stop thinking about the video I watched at renaye's.

Susan said...

It is scary stuff and we have to stop sticking our heads in the sand and start doing what we can.

Maybe I can buy some Michigan beans next month!

Ruth said...

Good idea, Susie.

I am happy to see all the organics sprouting up in our supermarket, but I am ready for more produce from local farmers. We have a sign in our Meijer that says something about it, but none to be found. I don't want strawberries from California! They're in season here! I know I can go to a local farm.

We're starting to harvest our own veggies, and that's the best. I've been thinking more about how much healthier it is to eat local food that has been raised in our own little biosphere. I wonder if this is one of the contributors to all the allergies - eating food from places where we aren't used to the environment.

Arti said...

Thanks for an informative post. We really need to stop and think, be ready to change, diet or lifestyle. I know it's easier said than done. But it's got to start somewhere. I like your recipe. I've been trying to cut down on meat, and use alternatives. This one sounds good. I love eggplant and curry.

Oliag said...

I am an optimist...cockeyed or not...and I can't help but think that mankind will figure it out before it's too late...

I love curry!

Ruth said...

If you try it, Arti, tell me if you like it. If I try it first, I'll tell you.

Thank you for being a good human bean.

Ruth said...

I'm an optimist too, Oliag. I'm pretty sure Nature will survive, it's our race I wonder about. Well, at least some of us will for a while yet.

Ruth said...

I just read that because of the delayed monsoons and well below half the regular rainfall in India, the price of vegetables there has doubled, meaning many are unable to put more than one vegetable a day on their table. The article ends by saying the big vegetable outlets might be gouging the customer. As the planet shifts, if people get less humane, not more humane, this is going to get ugly indeed.

rauf said...

Nature is selfish
Our planet is selfish

i see many eyebrows raised Ruth, No we cannot help.

We have no idea how smart our planet is.

The best we the humans can do is to stop worrying about the planet and start worrying about saving ourselves from extinction.

Moi said...

it's overwhelming, isn't it......sometimes, as my husband says, I am probably a born worry-wart....if it's not child labor (the issue closest to my heart), then I am talking about human trafficking and if it's not that then it's poverty, health care access (my latest bugbear ever since I joined health care industry 4 months back) , literacy rates in India and if it's none of those, then it's planet earth..........and then my optimistic side resurfaces urging me to continue to focus on all that's beautiful in this world and continue to do my bit and learn more to not get depressed but to get's such a ping-pong of emotions that I go through every single day of my life........

I like eggplants...this recipe sounds so familiar that it could have been created in an Indian kitchen :)

shoreacres said...

The issues are so incredibly difficult, and the "answers" we think we have always have unintended consequences. The so-called "Green revolution" in India, for example, is now heading for collapse, with depleted water tables and depleted soils bringing ruin to many.

I've been arguing elsewhere that "good people" elected to political office are inexorably changed into something quite different by the system in which they must work. Here, too, there are systems in place that must be changed if progress is to be made.

With all due respect, we simply can't stop worrying about the planet and worry about ourselves. We are inextricably bound to the planet, and her fate is our own.

Ruth said...

rauf abi, they are woven as one. No matter how complex the systems of the earth are, and no matter how unending its ability to heal itself - in spite of our ravaging ways - we are linked to it. I think if we worry about saving ourselves from extinction, we will simultaneously be caring for our planet - it would be impossible to ignore it and abuse it if we took a bigger view of man's survival. You have explored the complexities in your Environment series.

Ruth said...

Moi, you could have been describing me too. I am pulled into deep despair, and I am also optimistic. Much of the time I truly don't know how to strike a balance. I don't have answers. I live a day, and each day is different from the one before. But mostly I feel powerless and just try to live with an open heart.

Ruth said...

Linda - the agribusiness has devastated much of India. Coca-cola depleted the water supply. Desire to create drought resistant crops led to GMOs that have done who knows what to our bio-systems. And of course the political drives involve greed and other deadly sins. It drives me crazy.

rauf has written a series of Environment posts at his blog called SPEED, starting in October 2006, until January 2007. His final say in the 13th entry is quite fascinating, and the complexities you've addressed - and many others - are brought into the 13 parts. There are posts in between on other topics, so it can take some time to load his wonderful photographs that accompany all his posts. But it's worth your time. Maybe read them in installments.

rauf said...

Ruth, i think we are drunk with the idea that we the humans are special. We are not. Though i have briefly mentioned it in some post. i'll write about it in a couple of days. it will not be a pleasant read.

Nancy said...

Knowing that we now have every single ecosystem in decline is so every daunting. I hope people start waking up right now!

gemma said...

It is my hope that earth has the ability to heal itself. Just as our bodies do after we mistreat them. Trying to think positive here.....meanwhile buying locally grown produce.

Ruth said...

rauf - I am weary of the human race - not necessarily humanity, but the race: the competition, the drive to dominate the planet, the animal kingdom, and each other. Bleh.

Ruth said...

Nancy, why has it taken us so long to really learn from Nature? We thought we would just use it for our purposes and it would keep giving us its best without ever running out or complaining.

Ruth said...

Gemma, I posted about mycelium, the roots of fungi, and how they heal many toxic wounds in the earth. It's quite remarkable.

Leena said...

You really get people to think, I am happy to "know" you !
And I am many times thought, that we human beings are not very succesfull experiment in that Universum and very slowly to learn anyway!
But it is so very easy to forget all bad things here in the middle of forests at lake by watching sunsets and sunrises, babies of birds and human beings growing. . . at least for a while and get rest for carrying coming days.
We have a permission to enjoy all good and beautiful things, I think!

Leena said...

Sorry again, I have thought, of course and sorry all other mistakes too :)

Peter said...

Whatever the answers are to these difficult questions (probably several... which one is the "correct"?), I think there is already a certain beauty in the often horrifying pictures that Yann shows us. I'm happy you looked at it!

Yesterday, I was at the Marmottan museum (you know it?) with the largest Monet collection in the world and a lot more. There is now a temporary exhibition of Yann's photos and one can watch a film made last year where Yann is overflying Paris! As you may have guessed, I find a lot of beauty in Paris, but when you watch it from above it's fabulous!

Ginnie said...

It amazes me how many things I don't know about until I first read about them on your site, Ruth. :( It actually embarrasses me. I'll have to look this one up, since you've sold me on it. And if I may put in a request? Could we make that recipe while I'm with you in a couple weeks?? I happen to be a lover of beans. I learned years ago from my Mexican friend that rice and black beans are a complete protein together. And probably much better for all of us!

Vagabonde said...

I shall watch the movie Home with my husband, but I know we’ll get so depressed. My husband and I left San Francisco in 1969 so he could go back to school and get a master’s degree in what they called then “Ecology”. Everyone thought he was an extremist. He spent his entire career working in the field and he retired, utterly depressed. We live in an area which is super conservative. They feel that environmental problems are a liberal conspiracy. I am not very hopeful.

Claudia said...

It's a very powerful movie, should be shown in schools.

We sold one of the cars, started a vegetable patch and are getting chickens. We're trying to do our bit and it seems that a lot of people around us are doing the same. Still working on how to visit the family back in Portugal every year without leaving a massive carbon footprint behind, though...

Ruth said...

Dear Leena, as a biologist you know Nature, and as a wonderful human being you know people and history and culture. I am very fortunate I met you, like my big sister.

Ruth said...

Peter, I don't know the Marmottan. I never had heard of Yann before you told me about HOME. Now I see how amazing his photographs are, as well as his cinematography.

Ruth said...

Boots, this one is not so familiar in the U.S. Peter had to tell me about it, I didn't hear about it here in any media.

Yes, I would love to fix the curried beans when you are here. I think I have found my niche during all the pre-wedding preparation: cooking.

Ruth said...

Happy Bastille Day, Vagabonde!

It's true, sadly, that the more you know, the more depressed you can get.

Ruth said...

Claudia, I'm seeing more of the same here. Chickens are the #1 domestic animals in the U.S. now.

The corporates can do a lot to stop their frequent travel, more skyping or telephone meetings would be helpful. For you who visit family once or twice a year you are not causing the worst of it.

carl h. sr. said...

Hello dear Ruth,
Remember even the little birds of the field are watched over.
And the flowers are more glorious than spun gold garments.
I spent MANY years in a constant state of fear and worry,sometimes even panic.
There IS such thing as peace.
You just have to know that you are doing the best you can to make the world around you(next door,in town,etc.)a better place.
For me,you and Don DO make the world a better place!Peace to you and yours,carl

Ruth said...

Hello there, dear Carl. It's been a long time.

It's quite an accomplishment that you have moved from fear to peace. Thank you for what you said about Don and me, that is so kind and makes me feel good.

I think it's very hard to be conscious of what is wrong in the world, try to fix what can be fixed, and maintain inner peace in the meantime. Sometimes I'm pulled down more than others.

Last night I had a bad dream, very disturbing. I wonder where it all comes from.

RD said...

Ruth, my husband (Don too!) and I watched this film last night on your recommendation and were both dismayed and inspired. The photography was simply stunning, though sometimes we weren't exactly sure what we were looking at. This place we call home is spectacular and magical. So much beauty surrounds us, as does so much damage done in such a brief period of time--most of it in my lifetime! Don and I have for years now flirted with the idea of vacationing in Madagascar--it's kind of become a "joke" between us. We were appalled to see the damage done by deforestation and erosion there. It looked like open flesh wounds with blood and fatty tissue exposed. It was shocking. I was depressed through a good part of the film, but glad they gave us a bit of hope in the end. It's hard to feel that the little one's family does can actually have an impact on the salvation of the planet, but we move on in faith and with hope that we ALL can and will do the right thing. Thanks so much for promoting the film.

Ruth said...

RD, thank you for sharing your thoughts about HOME. I'm glad you watched, even though it is difficult and disturbing. Maybe you'll encourage someone else to watch it too, and the concern will spread.