On Thursday Sept. 7 at 3 pm The Toledo Lucas County Public Library screened Powerlands, a documentary by young Navajo filmmaker, Ivey Camille Manybeads Tso as part of Toledo Library’s Better Toledo Series sponsored by The City of Toledo Human Relations Commission and Welcome TLC as part of Better Toledo.
The film highlights the displacement of indigenous people along with the accompanying devastation of the environment caused by chemical companies that have exploited the land where Tso was born. Shown at 90 film festivals internationally, and winner of 11 awards, this main library screening includes a unique in-person Q&A opportunity with director Tso.
Tso began making films when she was nine years old and at 19 she began filming Powerlands, which took seven years to complete. She is now on the road on a year and a half long speaking tour to promote the film. She says it’s important to meet and speak with people about the film because “sustainability can’t happen without people being involved and without profit being the major motivator.”
Green Energy vs. Green Washing
Tso explains that the film is not anti-wind power, but rather pointing out how large corporations profit from wind power, at the expense of people and the environment. The inventor of the wind turbine envisioned that every house and building would have a small wind turbine and a small solar panel attached, but the problem with that model for corporations is that you can’t charge people for the resultant energy they are collecting.
“Corporations put up huge wind farms with resources that are not sustainable or safe. They aren’t watching the oil that’s used on the turbine and it often spills down and pollutes water, animals and food resources,” Tso explained. “The turbines are (often) built way too high and damage migrating bird populations. They also use very deceitful tactics to remove people from their lands. It’s possible for wind power to be sustainable, but it isn’t in its current incarnation.”
Tso wants to get this into the conversation now before we get into a “green washed movement” that is not actually a green movement. “In Black Mesa (Arizona), where I’m from, in the 1950s, Peabody Coal came in and you began to see the land disputes that happened in that region and to my family,” Tso said. “I grew up seeing the harmful effects coal mining can have on a community not only due to pollution, but (also due to) the tactics used to disenfranchise the powerless.”
For Tso, her family being moved around in this way was part of her formative years. With Powerlands, she hopes to convey her experience to others and teach people about the realities of wind power as it exists today. Pollution nearly always gets pushed into “areas of least resistance” — meaning in those areas where people who don’t have the economic power to fight back live.
Learning From Each Other
Tso has found that not only are people not aware of these issues, but they don’t realize these lands serve as a power source for the world. Black Mesa powers Phoenix, Tucson and LA. The film focuses on five communities and offers the audience ideas for how they might be able to help from their own backyard.
Tso says that during her time on the road, seeing the audiences take in the film’s message and make changes in their lives, has been a beautiful experience and, in turn, has helped her to change her perspective. In terms of her community story, Tso feels that it is one that had to be told from an indigenous perspective — by the people who’ve lived it. She says there are times when stories are slanted or are exploitative “poverty porn” which has led her to reach out to make sure that information and photos are accurate.
While these issues are important to impacted indigenous communities all over the world, Tso also feels it is also important to build awareness and, hopefully, to make better choices for all our communities going forward.
For more information, http://events.toledolibrary.org/event/7041046.