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5 Must-See Documentaries From the 2014 Environmental Film Festival
The 22nd annual Environmental Film Festival in Washington D.C. set records before it even showed one moment of footage.
The 13-day event features a record 200 films from 38 countries. Several of them will be world and U.S. premieres, while others have already experienced success at other festivals around the world. The topics are sure to inspire visitors from all sides of the environmental spectrum, from climate change to genetically modified foods and biodiversity.
The films will be shown at museums, embassies, libraries, universities and theaters across town. According to the festival, its “Our Cities, Our Planet” theme celebrates sustainable and resilient cities, with a focus on natural and built environments and how they seek to meet environmental and economic needs.
Here are five trailers of documentaries that will be shown during the festival.
The world premiere of this film takes place at 12:30 p.m. March 23 at the Carnegie Institution for Science. Mark Kulsdom directed the documentary that follows Dutch vegan and foodie Lisette Kreischer to New York City as she attempted to get Americans away from animal- and plant-based foods by exposing them to recipes containing Dutch seaweed.
"Scientists are warning that water scarcity forces the world into making a shift from animal based foods, to plant based foods, due to excessive use of fresh water and agricultural land by the intensive animal industries," Kulsdom wrote on Vimeo. "We were wondering how this future was going to taste and how we would fill in the loss of nutrients, when making this switch, so we travelled to New York, where the plant based kitchen has taken root to discover the look, feel and taste of the food of our future."
Technically the 13th episode of PBS' Journey to Planet Earth, this film makes its world premiere at the National Museum of Natural History on March 23. Its trailer has been circulating online for more than a year, building anticipation for the film that looks at extreme weather, climate change and the lack of response to it from the U.S. It's narrated by Matt Damon and features appearances by Lester Brown, Phil Radford and more.
This film makes its world premiere at 7 p.m. tonight, with director Frank Hawkins sticking around Georgetown Day School afterwards to discuss why "time is running out for biodiversity" in Haiti. His movie explores the degradation of the nation's natural resources less than four years after an earthquake. Overpopulation, unsustainable agriculture and the need for cheaper energy are among the issues faced by the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Based on a New Yorker magazine essay of the same name by Jonathan Franzen, Emptying the Skies follows a crew that attempts to save birds from trappers who have collected thousands of birds. According to the filmmakers, 30 million songbirds are illegally trapped and killed each year in the Mediterranean region. The film was originally released in fall 2013. It makes its Washington D.C. debut at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Environmental Film Festival.
Already a "Best Documentary" winner at the Berkshire International Film Festival and the "Audience Choice" film of the Yale Environmental Film Festival, GMO OMG shows at the Environmental Film Festival at 3 p.m. on March 23. Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert quests to find food that is not genetically modified, talking to farmers, McDonald's employees and even folks in the lobby at billion dollar chemical company Monsanto's headquarters, where he is kicked out.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.