We must try and screen the film “Demain” in Hertfordshire

Demain is a 2015 French documentary film directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent. Faced with a future that scientists say is pretty bleak, the film has the benefit of not giving in to catastrophism. It identifies and covers initiatives that have proven themselves in ten countries around the world: concrete examples of solutions to environmental and social challenges of the twenty-first century, be it agriculture, energy, economy, education and governance.

In 2012, in the British journal Nature1, Anthony Barnosky, Elizabeth Hadly and 20 other scientists stated, in a Consensus Statement orchestrated by California Governor Jerry Brown, that a large part of humanity will disappear before 2100.

This will not be the result of a meteorite but because of the behaviour of humankind leading to the general collapse of ecosystems. This will be the end of stable living conditions: overcrowding, lack of water, lack of fossil fuels, climate change will force millions of the desperately poor to plunder richer countries.

But the film does not dwell on this. “We’re not in a comfort zone,” says Mélanie Laurent, “and, so far, we are not yet in a state of collapse. We are at a particularly inspiring stage: we know it is going to take us a while and it’s time for us mobilise.”

The film is a road movie that reveals examples of practical solutions to the environmental and social issues of the early twenty-first century.

The film crew traveled to ten countries, to meet people who implement creative solutions: mainland France and Reunion, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Southern India, Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, Sweden and Iceland.

According to Gandhi, “An example is not the best way to convince, it’s the only way to convince.”

In the UK, the townspeople of Todmorden sow vegetables and plant fruit trees in the streets and everyone can come and help themselves. Incredible Edible hopes to achieve food self-sufficiency by 2018.

In Devon’s Riverford Farm, Guy Watson, combined with other organic farmers across the country, orchestrates the delivery of 44,000 organic vegetable boxes a week.

But how to combat inequality and globalisation? Small businesses must think “local” and organise a network. This is explained by the American localist Michelle Long, leader of Ball (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), a network of 35,000 local entrepreneurs.

In the areas of agriculture, energy, housing and the economy, fully-fledged solutions prove they can work. Why, wonder the filmmakers, do governments not implement these solutions on a larger scale?

“Our social and political structures”, observes Cyril Dion, “are not suited to the scale of these crises. Citizens expect more politicians to meet their expectations.” As the film shows, real democracy has disappeared and politicians no longer listen to citizens, they just bow to those vested interests who always demand more aberrant economic growth.

The film crew discovers that, in some countries, direct democratic mechanisms are put in place by citizens themselves. They propose laws, oppose, write the constitution or modify it. It shows how local democracy has transformed the small town of Kuthambakkam, South India, experienced in the book ‘A Million Peaceful Revolutions’ by Bénédicte Manier.

Finland is cited as a model of education excellence. The Kirkkojärvi Comprehensive School, Espoo, is “based on benevolence.” The teachers love their jobs, do not distribute reports or sanctions, take their meals with the students and use several pedagogies rather than a single one and take into account the personality and the provisions of each student. Child development is emphasised more than the transmission of knowledge. The pupils learn to live in harmony with others, to cooperate, to negotiate. They also learn to use their hands and, despite all this, the purely “academic” results are better: in 2009, the Finnish education system is ranked second worldwide in science, third in reading and sixth in mathematics, “far ahead of all European countries”.


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