Green Screen: Evolution of Organic

As the spirit of Earth Day—April 22—often inspires people to reflect on their treatment of the world around them, many find themselves realizing that they do not respect their planet as much as they would like to. However, this is not an irreparable relationship; environmentalists and activists all across the globe have been devising practices for decades that can help humans to coexist with nature, therefore conserving the earth and improving the overall well-being of society.

Wenyong Sheng speaks with Adjunct Professor Dr. Sheila Laffey before she screens “Evolution of Organic” during her Green Screen Series of documentaries that play this spring semester in her Film and Society class. Laffey produces documentaries herself, so the instruction she gives Sheng is from a working professional, one of the strengths of Santa Monica College which touts an astonishing number of working professionals who understand the current industry and new trends that shape it. The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Thursday, April 25, 2019, Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

Wenyong Sheng speaks with Adjunct Professor Dr. Sheila Laffey before she screens “Evolution of Organic” during her Green Screen Series of documentaries that play this spring semester in her Film and Society class. Laffey produces documentaries herself, so the instruction she gives Sheng is from a working professional, one of the strengths of Santa Monica College which touts an astonishing number of working professionals who understand the current industry and new trends that shape it. The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Thursday, April 25, 2019, Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

Directed by Mark Kitchell and narrated by Frances McDormand, “Evolution of Organic” explores the origins of the organic agricultural movement and the ways in which organic practices can help improve the health of society and the environment. According to the film, the counterculture movement of the 1960s sparked the beginnings of organic farming, as people began to seek alternative ways to grow food that would be best for the health of individuals and the sustainability of the natural world. Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”exposed the harmful effects of pesticides, furthering people’s desire to care for crops in a more natural way.

The film refers to organic growing as a way of redesigning agriculture in an effort to “produce an abundance of healthy crops without injecting poisons that may have unintended consequences.” This ideal also sparked support for localized farming and growing. Fear of pesticides in the late 80s ignited a desire for reliably safe and healthy food in communities across the nation, and that demand appears to be only growing stronger as environmental factors put a strain on the conservation of our resources.

Dr. Sheila Laffey points to a whiteboard filled with facts about the film “Evolution of Organic“ which includes archival video, photography, testimonies, and profiles of some of the major players in the rise of organic agriculture to mainstream grocery outlets. Lending hope for the future pointing to new techniques like sequestering atmospheric CO2 and flooding organic farm plots for seasonal salmon habitat, which the film hopes can solve some of the current issues, Thursday, April 25, 2019. The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

Dr. Sheila Laffey points to a whiteboard filled with facts about the film “Evolution of Organic“ which includes archival video, photography, testimonies, and profiles of some of the major players in the rise of organic agriculture to mainstream grocery outlets. Lending hope for the future pointing to new techniques like sequestering atmospheric CO2 and flooding organic farm plots for seasonal salmon habitat, which the film hopes can solve some of the current issues, Thursday, April 25, 2019. The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

“Food security is a big issue,” says Film Studies Professor Sheila Laffey. “We cannot take for granted our food supply anymore, because of droughts and other ecological disasters…I think we’re at a tipping point where people more in the mainstream, not just organically-inclined or sustainability-inclined, are paying attention because of health effects.”

The farmers and environmentalists interviewed in the film seem to prioritize treating the environment with care and respect just as much as treating their own bodies with respect; from their perspectives, people are healthier when the soil and the planet are healthier. Many of those featured reference their personal spiritual connections to the earth that inspire their drive toward organic living, and the mental health benefits of connecting to nature.

“There are studies that show that we produce endorphins, the good natural chemicals, when we touch the soil,” said Laffey.

For Laffey, who hosts the Green Screen series, “Evolution of Organic” helps lead viewers to reflect on their individual food choices. In Laffey’s eyes, the documentary gives audiences a sense of how much work it takes to make the transition to organic and how large the movement has grown since its origins.

Laffey strongly believes in the power of media. Not only can media educate viewers on different ideologies, but visual and audio productions such as documentaries have the power to invigorate movements and incite change.

“Media is huge,” said Laffey. “That’s one reason I love teaching this course, to be able to use the media to inform, entertain, and wake up.”

Arlene Hopkins (foreground) and friend Mary Duprey came to campus to enjoy the free screening of Evolution of Organic, and listen to Adjunct Professor, Dr. Sheila Laffey who speaks following the show about local issues related to the film like the Santa Monica College earthworm tour which is part of what makes “SMC is one of the top community colleges in the country as far as sustainability...” Laffey says (out of frame). The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Thursday, April 25, 2019, Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

Arlene Hopkins (foreground) and friend Mary Duprey came to campus to enjoy the free screening of Evolution of Organic, and listen to Adjunct Professor, Dr. Sheila Laffey who speaks following the show about local issues related to the film like the Santa Monica College earthworm tour which is part of what makes “SMC is one of the top community colleges in the country as far as sustainability...” Laffey says (out of frame). The Green Screen Series consisting of four documentaries surrounding environmental green topics, has one film left, “Nourish Food + Community” screening May 16, 2019. Thursday, April 25, 2019, Santa Monica, California. (Victor Noerdlinger, Corsair)

In terms of Santa Monica College’s active sustainability practices, the school takes part in composting. Vermiculture is a form of decomposing organic food waste through the use of worms, and the school makes use of this process by putting the biodegradable, plant-based food scraps from the school’s cafeteria into vermiculture bins behind main campus’s cafeteria. SMC also has an organic learning garden on campus, which encourages students to grow their own food while practicing sustainability and connecting to nature. Students can apply for their own garden plots to grow seasonal, organic crops and potentially further their connection to the earth that is so clearly advocated for in “Evolution of Organic.”

Evolution of Organic is part of The Green Screen series, brought to Santa Monica College through the course, Green Screen: Films on the Environment and Transformation.