By GAETANA CALDWELL-SMITH
The documentary film, “Elemental,” written and directed by Gayatri Roshan, should be seen by every cognizant human being on the planet, not only for its impact on one’s perception of climate change, but also for the realization that one person can make a difference. It focuses on three individuals in disparate parts of the world—India, Canada, and Australia—who are passionate about doing what it takes to save a dying earth.
Eriel Tchekweie Deranger, mother of a pre-teen, is an Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) member. She became aware of how the extraction of oil from tar sands in Alberta was impacting the land on which she and her family had lived for hundreds of years. A daughter of a 1970s activist, she began organizing protests locally, then worked as an activist throughout Canada and the U.S.
Rajendra Singh, a one-time government official in India, saw that the Ganges River had become so polluted as to cause disease and death, and that the river itself is dying. People toss dead bodies and refuse in the river daily, yet they bathe, worship, and wash everything in it. He started speaking out.
Jay Harman is an inventor and naturalist who got away from crowds and cities by escaping to the woods or the sea. He takes cues from the designs formed by shells and plants to engineer quieter, more effective fans. He has invented a device modeled on how nature cleans the atmosphere, which will do the same on a much larger scale, thus eliminating the toxic pall that covers much of the earth.
Eriel, Jay, and Rajendra are not part of any environmental organization. Eriel did gain the support of the Rain Forest Action Network but was dropped because she was radically outspoken—which, she was told, didn’t sit well with wealthy contributors.
She got the attention of environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. at an event in which he was the featured speaker. After reluctantly giving her the name of an important contact, Kennedy barked: “Don’t screw this up!”and then disappeared into a crush of adoring sycophants.
Singh tells people, “You love Mother Ganges, you worship Mother Ganges, yes? Would you throw garbage at your own mother?” He brings his message to villagers and their leaders, gaining dedicated followers wherever he goes.
Cinematographer Emily Topper gives us breath-taking views of the verdant foothills of the Himalayas, where Singh and his people trace the source of the Ganges. She allows the camera to linger, then raises it to capture the majesty of the range.
She also filmed the vast tar sands operation in Alberta, Canada. From the air, one sees wide dirt roads snaking through areas that look like death. Grey and brown scars curve over earth for miles, where no green tree or shrub can be seen.
In his debut non-fiction book, “The Shark’s Paintbrush,” out now, Jay Harmon continues to solve destructive or ineffective industrial problems, claiming it can be done by utilizing nature’s designs, which he calls “biomimicry.”
It is important that we take the messages that these three dedicated, passionate people deliver. Join Eriel Danager, Jay Harmon, and Rajendra Singh in their activism to ensure that generations to come—our children’s children—will have clean air, water, and a living, breathing, vibrant earth.