Up in Smoke


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Adam Wakeling
Completed 2011 Runtime 86


Slash and burn farming generates more carbon emissions annually than all air and road travel put together. It is one of the biggest contributors to deforestation and global warming. It sits at the crossroads of two of the greatest threats to global stability: accelerating climate change and diminishing food security.

Long Synopsis

Up in Smoke follows British scientist Mike Hands, who has laboured for 25 years to find a solution to replacing slash & burn agriculture in equatorial rainforests. And he's found it. But perfecting this novel technique, called alley cropping, was only the start. Now he needs to persuade governments, agencies and, more important than anyone else, the farmers.

This is a film about a struggle for our future. About the heroic, sometimes quixotic, mission of Mike Hands to get people to understand his revolutionary method. It's about the life and death struggle of impoverished farmers who can't afford to risk adopting a new farming method. It's a film about our driving need to change what's happening to the planet's rainforests, and about the pressures that may prevent that change from happening. Mike Hands has a solution, but is the world ready to listen?

We follow three principal characters: Mike Hands himself, and two Honduran farmers, Faustino and Aladino, one of whom has adopted Mike's technique, the other waiting to be convinced. Filmed over 3 years, the film moves between the UK and Honduras on a dramatic path that leads eventually to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. We get to see the proof of alley cropping, but will proof be enough to trigger real change? Politics has its own ways of interfering with the science.

What people
have said

Hands is undemonstrative but fascinating in his utter determination, and the vivid personalities of the Honduran farmers come through strongly.

New Scientist
Watch the
trailer here