Imagine living in a community where no environmental regulations are enforced, irresponsible corporations are left to police themselves, and the local politicians have complete control over what companies come in and how they will operate. You and your neighbors will have no say in the matter at all. Your voice does not matter, you're just poor people, and besides, you don't contribute much to the local economy.
"But we're human beings not buildings."
Money will flow into the pockets of these morally bankrupt officials from the businessmen, and your community will be at the mercy of this deal with the devil, with no voice, no money to fight back against the evil perpetrated on you, and no one willing to listen. If you speak out against the companies you will be labeled as an agitator, an impediment to the local economy, a voice to be silenced.
So what if you get sick, your children suffer and your land is ruined?
It's a fair trade off because the local government is making money and if they make money then the community prospers. But you and your neighbors are still poor. Your quality of life has not improved, in fact, it has grown much worse since this local "economy booster" has become your neighbor.
Your fields are bare, your trees bear no fruit and your river runs black and foul.
Is this the "promised prosperity" you expected?
One of your villagers makes marks on the wall every time someone dies in your community--the line of marks is getting longer with each passing year. Armed men come in the night and beat you and your neighbors for "causing trouble" and a new rule is instituted that all complaints against the companies must go through the local government head. The same official that has grown rich from the toxic corporate neighbors, and who has family in the same village that are suffering while his quality of life soars.
What do you do? What can you do?
American filmmaker Ruby Yang, with cinematographer Guan Xin and longtime collaborator Thomas Lennon, spent three years chronicling the struggle of China's Qiugang village and their increasingly emboldened population to curb the pollution that was poisoning them in their homes, schools, and fields.
It's a story of courage that we think you should see.
Quotes from the film:
"In our village we are saddened. We are sorry to be born in this place, but we had no choice. This was all forced upon us.
The danger comes from the businessmen who have the money, and the government itself, who have the power.
Either side can get us killed.
How can we fight them when they can just bribe their way out?"
The story of the villagers of Qiugang does not sound so different from stories here in America, and if our recently elected politicians continue this newly invigorated war against the EPA, then which of our own communities will be the next documentary?
We can think of a few that already are, so maybe there is a lesson in the Qiugang Warriors plight that can teach us here in America that one voice can make a difference.
But the voices of many make change.