Jan. 18 - Feb. 14

Metabolic Rift: A documentary film festival

University of Pennsylvania is hosting ‘Metabolic Rift,’ a documentary film program about environmental activism and social justice.


Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, in partnership with Yale Environment 360, is presenting Metabolic Rift, a documentary film program about environmental activism and social justice.

The films are being continuously screened from noon to 5pm, Tuesday through Friday in the Slought Mediatheque in Philadelphia, until February 14, 2018.

Surveying a variety of locales, the films featured in this series offer sober analyses of ecological loss and environmental degradation.

  • Evan Abramson’s Where the Water Ends (2010) reflects on the receding waterline of Lake Turkana due to climate change, irrigation and dam projects, and how it has sowed conflicts between Kenyan and Ethiopian tribes who depend on that body of water.
  • Chad Stevens’ Leveling Appalachia(2009) examines the devastating effects of mountaintop removal mining on the region’s forests, waterways, and people.
  • Daniel Glick and Ted Wood’s Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change (2015), traces the increased risk felt by firefighters in Colorado as climate change ramps up the intensity, frequency, and unpredictability of fires.

Other films in the series highlight empowering and innovative projects that seek to mitigate or reverse this damage.

  • Ryan Killackey’s Into the Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni (2013) documents the fight to preserve biodiversity in the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, an indigenous territory in eastern Ecuador that sits atop vast reserves of oil.
  • Karim Chrobog’s Big Waste (2015) explores food waste management in Washington DC and Seoul, and steps taken to reduce landfill and recycle meals.
  • Daniel Glick and Ted Wood’s Not On This Land (2015) follows a joint effort by Northern Cheyenne and local ranchers to protest the building of a coal-carrying rail line in the Montana reservation.
  • Thomas Lennon’s The Warriors of Qiugang (2011) documents a village’s effort to push back against factory practices that threaten water and air safety in Anhui, one of China’s worst polluted provinces.

The title for the series evokes Karl Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867). Marx employs the term “metabolic rift” to describe the irreparable shift in humanity’s relation to nature following the transition to capitalism. The increased extracting of natural resources wrests nutrients from the soil, causing severe ecological damage. These documentaries highlight contemporary scenes of social and environmental violence, and how ecology also intersects with inequality, global trade, and geopolitics.

More information: https://slought.org/resources/metabolic_rift

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