This Changes Everything – But what can we change?

By: Zhu Fangchen

Edited by: Neo Xiaoyun

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On 26th October 2016, the Yale-NUS Science Society and I’dECO in collaboration with Singapore Eco Film Festival held a screening and panel discussion of This Changes Everything. The film powerfully documents the social, economic and environmental implications of climate change. The film also demonstrates how social movements are a viable way for local communities to unite over their grievances in situations of socioeconomic injustice, form activist networks that fight back and have their voices heard.

Following the screening, a group of students enjoyed a fruitful discussion with our panellists consisting of Ms Nor Lastrina Hamid (Singapore Youth for Climate Change and #LepakinSG), Ms Nur Khairiana (FiTree), and moderated by Prof. Marvin Montefrio (Yale-NUS College). Students and panellists discussed what meaningful activism entailed – globally and in Singapore. While the group felt that it was difficult for people living in a highly urbanised city like Singapore to have an inherent feeling of connectedness to nature, Khairiana shared that she felt encouraged by the widespread, ground-up interest in the Rail Corridor and Bukit Brown. She posited that Singaporeans may be undergoing a period of reflection and rediscovering of the links between our natural heritage, biodiversity and national history.

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The panellists also discussed whether capitalism and environmental conservation are necessarily antithetical to one another. Lastrina felt that capitalism and environmental conservation may be compatible at the micro-level. Communities can be empowered to take ownership over local issues and independently deploy innovative technologies – which have previously been developed under the profit motive of capitalism. Local ownership ensures that societies are not beholden to the exploitations of corporations.

At the end of the session, Prof. Montefrio asked if the panellists could give the students advice on social movements to combat climate change. Both panellists agree that they should start in the community around them, and be daring to challenge the norms legally and creatively. Lastrina suggested that movements can aspire to get creative in their attempts to bring climate change to the forefront of public discourse. ART-ivism, or activism through artistic mediums, are refreshing and humourous means of delivering the message to a wider audience. She fondly recalls the daily proceedings of the Fossil of the Day award at the Paris Climate Change conference in 2015.

Climate change can be re-narrated as an opportunity for human societies to address longstanding contradictions within the capitalist system.

The event was successful and students left the film panel a little more aware of the issue of climate change. Despite the lack of clear directives of how social movements can counter capitalism and climate change, the film inspires gritty determination through the stories of small networks of people who have stood up against corporations and governments, in defence of ecological integrity and socioeconomic equity. Most importantly, This Changes Everything ended on a stirring note, as Naomi Klein shares how climate change can be re-narrated as an opportunity for human societies to address longstanding problems and contradictions inherent within the capitalist system.

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