Symbiotic Earth

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Symbiotic Earth 

How Lynn Margulis rocked the boat and started a scientific revolution

A film in ten essays and an epilogue by John Feldman

Symbiotic Earth 4X6

Symbiotic Earth explores the life and ideas of Lynn Margulis, a brilliant and radical scientist, whose unconventional theories challenged the male-dominated scientific community and are today fundamentally changing how we look at our selves, evolution, and the environment.

As a young scientist in the 1960s, Margulis was ridiculed when she first proposed that symbiosis was a key driver of evolution, but she persisted. Instead of the mechanistic view that life evolved through random genetic mutations and relentless competition, she presented a symbiotic narrative in which bacteria joined with one another to create animals, plants and all other organisms which together form a multi-dimensional living entity that covers the Earth. Humans are not the pinnacle of life with the right to exploit nature, but part of this complex cognitive system in which each of our actions has repercussions.

Filmmaker John Feldman traveled globally to meet Margulis’ cutting-edge colleagues and continually asked: What happens when the truth changes? Symbiotic Earth examines the worldview that has led to climate change and extreme capitalism and offers a new approach to understanding life that encourages a sustainable and symbiotic lifestyle.

Symbiotic Earth runs for 2 hours and 25 minutes.  It is divided into 10 essays and an epilogue.


1.  How Lynn Margulis Coerced Me Into Making This Film
2.  How Science Gave Us Permission To Exploit the Earth (aka: From Reductionism to Systems Thinking)
3.  Confronting the Neo-Darwinian Capitalist Zeitgeist (aka: How Science Gave Us Permission To Exploit Each Other)
4.  Lynn Margulis’ Lifelong Quest
5.  Working Together (aka: How Did She Do It All?)
6.  Bacteria Run The Planet
7.  Symbiosis Is The Way Of Life
8.  The Cell (Not DNA) Controls the Organism
9.  Evolution Through Mergers
10. Gaia is a Physiological System On the Surface of the Earth
Epilogue: Embracing How Little We Know

Lynn Margulis and wisteria

Lynn Margulis and wisteria


Oxford University, March 3, 2018 – Hosted by Voices from Oxford and The Third Way of Evolution. Panel discussion following screening: Latest ideas about evolution

Barcelona, Museu Blau, March 2018 – Hosted by Barcelona Knowledge Hub, Academia Europaea and Museu de Ciences Naturals de Barcelona. Panel discussion following screening: Bacteria and the microbiome

Berkeley, March 18, 2018 – Hosted by Bioneers and the David Brower Center. Panel discussion: Gaia, systems thinking, and the environment.

Host your own community screening

The premieres will be followed by a global network of community screenings. To set up a screening contact susandavies at


DSCF2478Viewer Responses to Preview Screenings

Symbiotic Earth leaves us looking at the world in a new light, understanding it better and yet more than ever aware of its essential mystery. Despite its length the film never flags and we deeply regret when the end comes because it means saying goodbye to Lynn who, setting aside her scientific legacy, exemplifies what Aristotle calls the well-lived life.  Dr. Robert Sternberg, Science Communication Unit, Imperial College London

Bravo again for composing a message as important as Silent Spring.  Lisa Jacobson, artist,

THANK YOU for making such an important, thought provoking, and beautifully shot film. (Not to mention the evocative soundtrack)  Martin Ping, Executive Director, Hawthorne Valley Association

The film is terrific. Exhilaratingly intelligent, very important and revelatory, and a look at a pioneering woman that many people do not know anything about. Alan Gelb, Author

Watched your remarkable film last night and thank heaven you did this and found all that material. Your film goes a long way and beyond to reveal what I could only guess at – and its revolutionary nature, and I even see additional unexpected connections to the deep structure of the grave climate crisis itself. Congratulations – enormously important. – Bill Blakemore, Veteran journalist and ABC foreign correspondent

It was riveting. A wonderful achievement. Beautifully shot with many creative touches that are welcomed and never overdone. Using your first person narrative really personalizes it for the audience, esp with cut-ins where you are looking out the windows and beautifully the exterior becomes what you are thinking of, imagining in your narrative. Dr. Douglas Zook, Professor of Ecology, Boston University

I love it. I thought you managed not only to convey Lynn’s basic ideas very well but also portrayed her as a working scientist who gets her hands dirty. It was typical of her that she always talked about very concrete biological realities, and that comes across very well in the film. Dr. Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics

I truly loved this film. I only wish I could see it again! Though it is not short … it is truly engrossing. I learned so much and wanted to go back for more! Miranda Barry, former Executive VP of Content, Sesame Workshop

I’m the person who commented after the preview that this is he best documentary I have ever seen. Eleanor Magid, Professor Emerita, Dept. of Art, Queens College CUNY

Bravo on your thoughtful and moving documentary about Lynn Margulis and her astonishing, revolutionary scientific thinking and career. This film should be required of many introductory college courses, from the physical and life sciences to the social sciences. Mark Leckie, Professor of Geology and Earth Systems, UMass, Amherst

Thank you so much for the wonderful film! It was a wonderful experience to watch and “feel” its message. The film celebrates the scientific mind the passion of the individual and the bumpy roads that science sometimes requires us to navigate. Your film is just brilliant! like Lynn! Julie Brigham-Grette, Professor Glacial Geology and Arctic Paleoenvironments

I was one of the lucky ones, through the good offices of Jim MacAllister, to see Symbiotic Earth at Umass last Saturday. I found it to be very powerful, and I am writing to thank you… John, your film is a pot of gold, amenable to restructuring for different purposes and audiences. Woody Bliss, Amherst, MA

Congratulations – what a wonderful film, Lynn’s energy, optimism, good humour, mischief and awe leap off the screen. Daryl Taylor, organizer of preview screening in Melbourne, Australia

A few nights ago I had the privilege of seeing a pre-release screening of a new documentary about Margulis’ ideas on symbiosis and how they are revolutionizing our understanding of the origin and evolution of life. This splendid film gives us insights into Margulis’ prolific career; and into the woman, whose vitality explodes across the screen with the force of a slow-motion supernova. I was by no means the only person who came away feeling I’d just witnessed a fifth force of nature.” Margaret Wertheim, science writer.  Read Margaret’s blog posting about the film.

John Feldman

John Feldman

John Feldman is a critically acclaimed and highly original award-winning filmmaker. He has a BA in Biology from the University of Chicago and is an avid naturalist. He met Lynn Margulis when he was making his documentary: EVO: Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask about Evolution (2011, CINE Golden Eagle Award). His independent dramatic feature films include the pioneering digital video production Who the Hell is Bobby Roos? (2002, New American Cinema Award, Seattle International Film Festival), Dead Funny (1995, starring Elizabeth Pena and Andrew McCarthy), and Alligator Eyes (1990, First Prize Audience Jury San Sebastian Int. Film Festival). His early short films earned many festival awards.  CONTACT:


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