What The Oscar-Winning Film ‘Nomadland’ Teaches Us About Sustainability

May 26, 2021 By César Albarrán Torres

The film Nomadland (2020), directed by Chloé Zhao and featuring the iconic actress Frances McDormand, is an experiment that combines fiction and documentary styles. The plot follows Fern (McDormand), a woman who loses her husband, her job and her town (a settlement built next to a factory, simply vanishing after the 2008 financial crisis). Fern is driven to a nomad lifestyle, jumping from one job to another and sleeping in the truck she adapted into a tiny home.

The film reveals the impact of unethical capitalism on the U.S. working class, particularly on women.

In the film, Fern meets other people who have adopted a nomad lifestyle, traveling in their vans and temporarily working wherever fate takes them. Some, like Fern, do it out of necessity, while others choose to do it because they wish to exchange the stressful office life for freedom. Without being too obvious or trivial about the issues faced by vulnerable people, we can find some life examples in Nomadlandthat can guide us towards a life of better personal sustainability.

Recycle, Reuse and Share

Fern and the group of nomads organized to exchange items in good conditions that they don’t need but can be useful for others. In Mexico and other countries, there is a certain resistance to buying used things, especially due to class and status connotations. However, this practice is very common and even trendy in other countries. Thrifting is in fashion.

Live for the moment and give others your full attention.

In our busy lives, we forget to stop and just live mindfully, even for a few minutes. Months can go by without actually seeing a sunset, marveling at the rain, or appreciating being able to feed ourselves. This is not sustainable.

Personal sustainability is partly about being able to reduce stress and deal with today and now. Throughout Nomadland, there are several moments when Fern does exactly that.

By the way, when you are with someone, put your phone away and give them your full attention. You’ll see how time expands and you get to know yourself better through others.

Nature belongs to all of us.

My favorite moment of the film only lasts a few seconds. Fern is driving through a huge landscape. She sees a buffalo through her windshield, its brown fur blending into the field’s many shades of green. Director Chloé Zhao showcases beautiful natural landscapes. We must get in touch with nature if we really want to fight for sustainability. We can’t genuinely defend something we don’t know and love.

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