Standing on Sacred Ground: Profit and Loss

View on The Global Environmental Justice site

David N.M. Mbora, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, Whittier College

Why I selected this film
I chose this film because it makes an important point about the high cost that native peoples have to pay to provide the industrial raw materials and fossil fuel energy that drive the economies of industrialized countries. The high costs, in the form of lost livelihoods and nasty health effects on the indigenous people, are often invisible to the residents of industrialized countries. In addition, the film highlights important grassroots efforts by the indigenous peoples to hold governments and industry accountable. Such environmental activism, I believe, is important because it empowers local peoples to pursue environmental justice.

Teacher's guide    
Please see the teacher's guide for maps, background information and suggested subjects, questions and activities.

From the rainforests of Papua New Guinea to Canada’s tar sands, Profit and Loss exposes the industrial threats to native peoples’ health, livelihoods, and cultural survival. In PNG, a Chinese government–owned nickel mine violently relocated villagers to a taboo sacred mountain, because it makes an important point about the high cost that native peoples have to pay to provide the industrial raw materials and fossil fuel energy that drive the economies of industrialized countries. The built a new pipeline and refinery on contested clan land, and is dumping mining waste into the sea. In Alberta, First Nations people suffer from rare cancers as their traditional hunting grounds are strip-mined to unearth the world’s third-largest oil reserve. Indigenous peoples tell their own stories—and confront us with the ethical consequences of our culture of consumption.  —Excerpted from the Standing on Sacred Ground website

The environmental justice focus of the film
This film highlights how environmental contamination can affect people, particularly indigenous communities, who are fighting for clean, healthy, and safe environments for their families and children. While non-Native American residents fled their homes after the attempts to clean up the Tar Creek site failed, members of the Quapaw Tribe who were forcibly relocated to the area in the first place remain, and they continue to be exposed to dangerous pollution from the lead and zinc mines. The film draws attention to the long history of marginalization and willful neglect that Native Americans have experienced at the hands of the U.S. government and corporate extractive industries—abuses that continue today

"The striking parallels between the Chinese [in] Papua New Guinea and the Canadian...oil sands project are brought out well and poignantly in this film." Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Department of Anthropology, Georgetown University


Main credits

McLeod, Christopher (film director)
McLeod, Christopher (film producer)
Huang, Jennifer (film producer)
Huang, Jennifer (screenwriter)
Greene, Graham (narrator)

Other credits

Edited by Marta Wohl; director of photography, Andrew Black; composer, Jon Herbst.

Docuseek2 subjects

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Climate Change
Conflict Resolution
Conservation Biology
Social Responsibility
Environmental Anthropology
Environmental Education
Environmental Geography
Environmental Justice
Environmental Planning
Environmental Policy
Global Issues
Grasslands and Prairies
Habitat Loss
Health and Health Care
Human Rights
Indigenous Studies
Internationl Studies
North American Studies
Papa New Guinea
Public Health
Toxic Chemicals
Toxic Waste
United States
Youth and Family


Alberta tar sands, Canada, Chinese nickel mine, Clayton Thomas-Muller, "Profit and Loss", Bullfrog Films, cultural survival, culture of consumption, dumping mine waste in sea, industrial threats, livelihood, loss of health, loss of land, loss of water, mining, native peoples' health, oil industry, oil reserves, Oren Lyons,Papua New Guinea, pipeline, rare cancers, refinery, relocating villagers, Satish Kumar, stripmining traditional hunting grounds, taboo sacred mountain, Winona LaDuke, Athabasca Lake, Athabasca River, Boreal Forest, China, clusters of fatal and non-fatal illnesses, deep-sea tailings disposal, downstream, fishing, Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, indigenous rights, Northern Gateway, Oil sands, settlement ponds, XL pipeline, Australia, Basamuk Bay, Bosmun village, Kurumbukari plateau and village, Mindere village, Papua New Guinea, Rai Coast, Ramu River; "Standing on Sacred Ground"; Global Environmental Justice

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