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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The experience of watching an inspiring documentary: Living Downstream

I got this wonderful opportunity the other day to attend the screening of the documentary Living Downstream. It was truly an engaging and an inspiring experience. The reason for it being so I felt was because it went beyond the technical investigation about the connection between cancer and environmental toxins and rather raised the banner to an inspiring depiction of a scientific inquiry.

The documentary is based on the acclaimed book Living Downstream by ecologist and cancer survivor Dr. Sandra Steingraber. Her journey as depicted in the documentary was to break the silence about connections between cancer and environment which is not only inspiring but provokes one to question the endless stream of “developmental activities” outside us that may lead us to a point where one might end up paying more cost than reap any fleeting short term benefits. The documentary beyond the scientific inquiry into the relationship between cancer and environmental toxins was an exquisite blend of biology, science, poetry and the power of human spirit.

As someone really passionate about environment and its dynamic interaction with people I was really motivated with the theme as to how one person as a cancer survivor takes the bold step on the journey to bring home some of the very serious issues about relationship between living beings and the environment we live in that we can no longer afford to ignore. The documentary depicts various studies that reveal the existence and the extent to which so many chemicals and poisons have become so pervasive into our environment. One can no longer ignore these venomous chemicals that have the ability to spread their claws through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. So where does one locate the roots of the problem? Is it one terrible chemical being used here and there or rather is it the cycle of developmental activities and its impact on the environmental system that needs to be addressed?

The documentary mirrors the dynamic interaction of our genes and the environment we reside in. The genes that are not only triggered because of the genetic changes that might run in the family but also the changes that might get triggered as an effect to what is happening within the environmental system; slow but definite. Our endless reliance and increased usage of chemicals into the environment to reap short term benefits is actually leading us downstream, the path that leads to devastating effects on the environment and health of the species. Henceforth, the inquiry that needs to be dealt with is: If the Cost that might have to be paid with our well-being is it worth it?

As a newcomer to Toronto and indeed to Canada the documentary brought home to me once again an example of the environmental problems and its impact to the populace that live in the developed world. Beyond the larger debate my take from living Downstream was the power of human spirit, which moves beyond the misery of one’s personal experience and reaches out to many others out there through ones determination, effort and the spirit. The way Sandra Steingraber puts it: ‘What we love we must protect’ and that there will be a definite way where each one of us can contribute and make a difference in our own unique way. After the documentary I indeed asked myself can I do it? Yes indeed I can, finding my own niche and contributing in my own unique way to protect our environment, to protect what we love.


  1. Thank you for this comment Deepa. It is for these reasons that I refuse to support programs to raise funds for cancer treatment, because I think that is not the problem - the problem lies in all the toxins that we use and consume - and so we should be putting our money is put instead towards research into environmentally respectful ways of production and consumption. I have heard this is an excellent doc but have not seen it as yet - I will though! Nidhi

  2. Thanks Nidhi, I second that because many a times I feel we try to solve the problem by looking at what is manifested and not necessarily taking into account the root of the problem which is essential.
    A very thought provoking documentary, a must see..