March 10 2021
film reviews: 'Hot Money' and 'Kiss the Ground'
That's right -- it's a two-fer! Both are recent documentary films and
although they occasionally cross topical paths they are somewhat partisan
affairs and framed for their target audiences. Both are worth watching.
Hot Money - (c) 2021 - https://www.hotmoneyfilm.com/
I came across this film on Rob Mielcarski's blog 'Un-Denial'  which
provides both a review of the film and information on ways to see it.
Essentially I see this film as a Systemic Risk primer for Republicans.
It covers most of the usual topics -- peak resources, climate weirding,
financialization of the economy, ecological overshoot -- but from a more
selfish perspective which I think it's fair to say syncs up pretty with
modern GOP rhetoric. So instead of worried Greenies expressing concern
about accelerated warming we get a former oil executive sharing her
conclusion that all the evidence points towards climate change being a
real thing(!), or a Houston small business owner pointing out how her
net worth took a big hit when her house flooded due to sea level rise.
Green technologies are pitched primarily in terms of national security
and their money-making opportunities rather than a way to slow climate
change, admittedly a fairly accurate take as most are unlikely to produce
significant de-carbonization cradle to grave.
The film is carried along by the meandering banter of retired general
Wesley Clark  and his adult son. This achieves several things: it
contrasts the generational differences of conservatives while providing
some insight as to how some of their points of view came about and how
they continue to frame discussions of just what is going on and what,
if anything, might be done. To assuage any suspicion that Leftist
ideology is being peddled the Clarks engage in some good old-fashion
commie bashing as they slam Venezuela's on-going chaos while conveniently
ignoring the US's role. Scandalously, Clark Jr. later questions the
soundness of US covert operations used to "knock over" governments.
Kids these days, eh?
Clark Sr. apparently knows quite a bit about the banking industry and is
himself a banker of sorts, sitting on the boards of several investment
and business advisory firms. His breakdown of the current state of the
economy and the various ways the shadow banking system is miss-incentivized
is probably the best aspect of Hot Money and reason enough to overlook
the film's shortcomings.
In conclusion I thought the film did a pretty good job of explaining why
even self-centered capitalists ought to be paying more attention to
the creaking sounds emanating from the mega-machine that is global
Kiss the Ground - (c) 2020 - https://kissthegroundmovie.com/
I got an invite to watch this celebrity-enhanced "good news" film which
groups like the Sierra Club are promoting to cheer up their apparently
The film starts off with Woody Harrelson confessing he has given up on
humanity as it careens towards a multifaceted collapse. BUT.. look -- good
news! The Earth can save itself (and us too!) if we just help it a bit.
Several actors and other well-known Lefties subsequently proceed to make
appeals for nature-based solutions to humanity's overshoot. Mostly this
entails promoting the adoption of permaculture principles as a way of
both lessening human impacts on habitat and mitigating climate change.
Various approaches to leveraging the planet's living crust to create
habitat and/or sequester carbon are presented. Much of it is sound
science but some of it is more speculative. People like former NRCS
agronomist Roy Arehuleta  and ecologist John Liu  promote solid
techniques for improving farming and rehabilitating erosion damaged lands.
No-till farming for example can cut energy costs by 2/3 while building
top soils and significantly cutting water and chemical use. As soil
becomes more complex it also sequesters more carbon.
On the more speculative end of the spectrum is Alan Savory  and his
holistic management  that among other things promotes livestock
grazing to reverse desertification. Bringing grazers and grass or
crop lands back together makes total sense from both an animal and
cropland health perspective, but it's unlikely by itself to help much
with addressing the climate change and ecological overshoot created by
way too many humans using way too much stuff. In fact several reviews
seem to shoot down much of Savory's climate mitigation claims .
Moving livestock out of concentrated feed operations and back to crop
or grasslands also translates into much more expensive meat, sure to
disappoint many a carnivore.
Other ideas presented are actually old ideas made new. For example,
"Keep the Poop in the Loop"  was standard practice for agriculture
as documented in the classic book 'Farmers for Forty Centuries' .
The real question is if the developed world is ready and willing to
say goodbye to flush toilets and start filling curbside brown bins.
So is this good news, a reason for hope? Not by itself I don't think.
Certainly much of what's suggested is good for the planet and should be
adopted if only because it improves habitat and resiliency. And even
if nature-based climate mitigation is limited in what it can actually
accomplish -- photosynthesis falls as temps increase; CO2 pulled from
the atmosphere is replaced from what the oceans have absorbed -- it is
relatively low-cost. For example, implementing just 80% of the INRA's
'4 per 1000' soil initiative  as presented in the film would only
cost $112 billion annually. That sounds like a lot but it's cheap when
compared to most engineered CO2 sequestration schemes if scaled up;
most likely can't.
A reading of the 'Kiss the Ground' website suggests it's just one of
several solutions laid out by the Drawdown Project . There are quite
a few ideas presented and not all of the techno-fix variety. Some are
bound to be useful but ultimately humanity needs to drastically shrink
it's footprint RIGHT NOW, particularly in the developed countries.
My concern is that all this effort towards trying to keep consumerism
going via green substitution just delays the inevitable reversion to
simpler living arrangements. And it necessitates keeping Business As
Usual going in the hope of achieving those breakthroughs instead of
initiating transition with what we know works. The time for exploring
novel solutions was 50 years ago; we are now out of time.