A message from: Leora Berman, CMO, The Land Between, Executive Producer, My First Shot
Of Love: Love Thy Neighbour – The Many Rewards of Brave Open Exploration
First and foremost, this film is about bravery and love. It is a social piece. It is about people and perspectives; about learning and sharing before placing judgements. Often, conclusions are drawn about peoples and communities without first hand experiences of them. Judgement is easy, but true open-hearted exploration is brave and more difficult. In this film the viewer can explore difference and experience bravery through proxy; through the eyes of Erin Carmody. And in doing so, the viewer too becomes brave.
I was born in South Africa. In the Highveld I saw first-hand the results of discrimination and judgement that is based on difference; that is based on colour. I then moved to Canada where these differences were conspicuously missing; First Nations and the diversity of wildlife and natural landscapes were not found readily in the suburban areas of southern Ontario. But I sought them out anyway because as in South Africa, they are part of our identify; these elements are actually our roots.
Then I moved to The Land Between. Here, because the Land is natural and because the landscape places us in close proximity to one another, I have seen again judgement and discrimination that is based simply on colours. Here this separateness it is not only based on difference in skin colours, but also on political colours, on the colour of money and how much you have, and even too based on the colour “hunter orange”.
I understand that these barriers or colours are Given and sometimes even chosen as a ways to identify ourselves and what we perceive as our “kin”. But although we may feel we are safe within our colours and “kin”, instead of providing support and enrichment, these barriers if permitted, may keep us apart. They may actually instead stifle and stilt us. After all we learn from difference: If everyone were alike we would not grow or learn or strive or be inspired. There is a good reason that we were all made uniquely: Difference brings insight and strength. Even at the genetic level, species need a diversity of genes in order to be resilient and healthy; to combat weakness and not succumb readily to illness.
The Land Between is a place of difference: It is a meeting place for north and south, for city and country, for Liberal and Conservative, and for Settler and First Nation. The Land Between is a microcosm of North America. It is a place where difference and diversity serves to elucidate or expand our horizons and even which leads to greater joy in community with one another, or where our preconceptions and fear of difference keeps us rather isolated and fragile amidst these hills and plains.
I pray and often ask the Great Spirit to be an Ambassador for Him. This is because I have found so much Love from and in the Creator. The keys to that Love are simply Truth (and a bit of bravery). Truth is that colours are not the Truth, they are only colours. They are elements of who we are but they are not who we are. And it is brave to stand tall autonomously and share with the world who you are without your colours; and conversely to seek in others who they are beyond their colours; to look for their humanness.
Too, the saying goes, Love is for the lucky and the brave. When I had decided to do a film exploring hunting it was really a film where city meets country; where Liberal meets Conservative; where we could explore difference and come out better for it. And my crew and I were lucky to find Erin Carmody, a former vegan from Los Angeles with and advanced Degree, and so someone who hails from the opposite spectrum of the hunters of The Land Between…and we sent her hunting.
Through our luck and Erin’s bravery, the audience too becomes lucky and brave. And by her example the audience too can be brave and begin to build bridges between two worlds, be lucky to find new understanding and solutions, and so in the end experience and share love.
The greatest commandment is to love thy neighbour; the greatest jewel more than hope and faith is Love. Little did I know how timely this effort would be in the wake of the USA election when our frailty has been exposed. It is my sincere hope that this film inspires bravery to look at what is true, to share what is true, and which is not your colours, but your soul…and that it therefore leads to more love in your life.
Hunting amidst the modern world of diminishing habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystem services is a complex subject, and yet traditional game hunters in North America provide invaluable contributions to conservation. This film was therefore also precipitated to fairly check the broad brush of hunting (or even hunters) as “bad” where hunting has perhaps become a scapegoat for the larger more complex issues that we face in environmental conservation. This film is to provide a fair basis for dialogue regarding hunting and our relationships with the land/natural resource management. Again, open inquiry is kind and the only way to build greater understanding towards wisdom and balanced solutions.
The world appears to be moving farther and farther away from the basic and intimate relationships with the Land and Nature and therefore with food – coupled with the seeming display of abundance and availability of food in all its clean and perfect glory in our modern grocery stores- we may often draw all-too-simple conclusions about the ethics, values, and necessity of modern hunting and of hunters. We draw simple lines without asking questions and therefore without fundamental knowledge. My grandmother used to say, even a potato bug is perceptive (it senses your presence and rolls into a ball when you walk in a room, and yet it is blind). Therefore, common sense and faith in human’s basic yet remarkable ability to perceive and learn, dictates that when one is in such close proximity to be intimate with Life and Nature, as when hunting, that at least respect and even reverence, and at least knowledge and even wisdom is inevitable. Many great minds have quoted that the Natural World is a greater teacher than any school.
Therefore, we should not be too quick to dismiss the role of hunters and hunting. It may be a new revelation to understand that a large part of our modern conservation movement stems from hunters: Like our overall human story, ample mistakes of over-harvesting, over-development, pilfering were made and served to teach us….and hunters who used and benefitted from these resources were quick to respond and act: The National Parks System in the USA is born of the testament of T. Roosevelt’s exploration into conservation. Teddy was a typical trophy hunter of the era who had the foresight to realize that the he could not pursue these ends without the preservation of major natural habitats and so together with Aldo Leopold, President Roosevelt created the USA parks system; the wetland conservation portfolio, consisting of at least the North American Waterfowl Conservation Act, the Duck Stamp Program, and the making of Ducks Unlimited, is born of hunters in the USA during the dust bowl of the 1920s, who understood that without wetlands there would be no waterfowl and no related diversity, richness, or functions should these ecosystems be depleted; And First Nations, the hunter-gatherers, whose respect and reverence for the Land has been shared, taught, and communicated repeatedly has influenced our perspectives irrevocably. Today the level and breadth of stewardship, conservation and of Ecological Knowledge that is born of hunters and First Nations is a significant and valuable contributor to our current and collective conservation effort and success.
The fundamentals of gathering food and our consequent relationship with Life and the Land, despite the modern and current distance, is a human principle and a human story- therefore hunting is a story of ourselves, of our evolution and of our learning, and one that cannot be anything but a story of Knowledge.
From my investigation as Executive Producer, witnessing behind the scenes, I have a greater understanding that perhaps the ability to secure one’s own food, whether it is from a garden or from God’s country is a form of liberty: “It is to be part of the environment”, as our new hunter Erin suggests, “and not above it”…and also not beholden to the modern “productionist” environment where we are evermore dependant on “food companies and conglomerates” to feed us and in many ways, to choose for us.
Personally too I have a new understanding of why hunting is considered by many as a sacred practise, both in some ancient cultures and in some modern arenas: I have witnessed that the type of hunting we encountered in this film (that of the traditional hunt; hunting for food, accepting what comes, and using the whole animal) starts with Hope; the practise, strain, and vulnerability that is Hope…and then I have seen that when this hunt is successful, it is so because of Grace. It is therefore surprisingly, a humbling experience, and not one of pride.
Finally, I know that not all hunters are conservation-minded, that some do not even understand the value of their experience and knowledge, and some too may be mainly interested in hunting for a prize rather than hunting for game (food). Indeed each sector and group in society has is varied in its spectrum, including too in politics, religion and too in the environmental movement. But the majority of hunters in North American cannot be considered as extreme or frivolous; instead, to paraphrase Aldo Leopold, these hunters are engaged in an intimate relationship with nature as to be “enrolled in the best school around”.
Too, it is rather our mass consumption and excesses – land for estate residences, fuel and resources for leisure travel, and products for convenience but also stature; and all which mimic the aesthetic and ideologies of the fiefdoms of ancient England and Rome; and coupled with growing global populations – these are truly the detriment to wildlife and also the detriment to our relationship, knowledge and responsibility to Nature. It is not modern conscientious hunting that is the true issue.
However it is also a fact that the degree which managed hunting regulations can respond to the state of the environment may also be stilted: An esteemed colleague of mine and I have debated hunting and we are at degrees apart in some thoughts. While he feels hunting is entirely outmoded- and given his years on the planet researching and witnessing the destruction of the earth, he looks at biodiversity at a global scale, and to remove any and all feasible threats to species. I understand and appreciate this sentiment. But what of local scales where the balance, already tentative, may be thrown off further if hunting is removed and which will result in other casualties? What if humans don’t regulate? Such as if deer when not culled remove all browse and food sources for other animals? Rather, I view biodiversity in varying scales because I see humans as part of the environment and, like species and food webs as parts of varying levels of a community. Pragmatically and practically our relationships to this environment are reflected and applied at these scales- so I am not sure that hunting is outmoded. I do agree however, as my colleague states, “biodiversity trumps culture”. So when species and/or ecosystem services are at risk, wildlife management through hunting limits should be immediately responsive. Therefore if K-strategists (species that take long to replace themselves and mimic the carrying capacity of the habitat, such as turtles, and opposed to R-strategists of rabbits and to a degree deer populations that can generate offspring at numbers and despite their natural habitat) and even too some apex species (top-predators)- if these species are still on the hunting list and when no nuisance or harm is caused by their populations, this definitely needs to be more immediately reflected in management.