Island Earth

Island Earth

Cyrus Sutton | 
US |
 2016 | 
61 minutes


Like the beautiful Hawaiian archipelago where the film is set, Cyrus Sutton’s Island Earth is a complex mix; at once hopeful and celebratory, but interwoven with notes of hardship and despair. The film examines our complicated relationship with farming and food production, through the lens of present-day Hawaiian society. While Hawaii currently imports between 80%–90% of their food, the agricultural systems of early Polynesian societies are a fascinating (and timely) model for the development, or reclamation of sustainable agricultural practices.

In contrast, modern-day commercial agriculture has become an enormously complex global system, fraught with profound economic, environmental, and logistical challenges. This is particularly true for Hawaii, where the lush climate and long growing season meant that the islands have been subjected to successive waves of colonial and corporate money seeking to exploit the region’s ability to produce massive amounts of food. The sugar and pineapple barons have largely come and gone now; succeeded by the agro-chemical and bio-tech companies.

The film examines how former plantation fields are now used for open air field-testing of restricted-use pesticides. A diverse group of islanders, academics, and activists are trying to find a way forward. They want to be able to feed their own people on a finite land base, as earlier islanders did. They want the agro-chemical companies to stop spraying massive amounts of chemicals on the fields next door to their homes and schools. And, like all of us, they simply need to find a way to eat, work, and raise the next generation, while fighting for a better world. As one of the film’s subjects points out, on an island, you have nowhere to run. -AW

Justice Forum Panelist

Wilson Mendes

Wilson Mendes is a member of the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS), and a second year PhD student with the Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS) at UBC. His research looks at the intersection of Indigenous community planning and Indigenous food sovereignty in two Indigenous communities in British Columbia. The focus of his work is based on a collaborative and community-based approach to build capacity among Indigenous communities and bring community voices into decision making process.