A Sneak Peek Into This Year’s Best Environmental Films
By Katie O'Reilly
Hollywood loves history. Awards season 2018, after all, is buzzing with films that explore world wars, arms races, governmental and Olympic scandals. For those environmentalists who get behind the camera, however, the silver screen becomes an avenue to engage audiences in the issues, threats and hopeful developments shaping their children's future. In spite of the rapidly changing and increasingly fragmented media landscape, cinema remains a powerful tool for swiftly transforming lay viewers into impassioned advocates and activists. That's why the volunteers laboring to protect the Sierra Nevada's Yuba watershed launched the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in 2003.
The title is apt for an event that takes place within the nature-nestled Gold Rush relics of Nevada City, California. The festival's namesake actually commemorates the 1999 designation of "Wild & Scenic" status for 39 miles of the nearby South Yuba River—a landmark achievement for the South Yuba River Citizens League. Each January since the event's founding, South Yuba River Citizens League has used the festival to fundraise for its pet cause (pulling in a cool $850,000 this past year), host activist workshops (the fact that it always falls on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend does much to amplify the revolutionary spirit of the event), and screen 150-some films that explore a wide range of other local and global environmental issues.
Last Sunday, the four-day-long festival culminated with champagne, cake and an awards ceremony, but the 2018 event is far from finished. Wild & Scenic is about to hit the road, where it'll broadcast select films at museums, nature centers and nonprofits around the world.
So, which films dominated the world's most far-reaching green film festival? Here are the movies—vetted by a jury of esteemed conservationists, writers, activists and reviewers—to add to your 2018 must-watch list.
The jury awarded honorable mentions to two films: Describing the first as the contender that best captured "the tenor of our times," jurors selected David Byars's No Man's Land for its detailed, on-the-ground account of the 2016 standoff at Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge between armed militants led by Ammond Bundy and other protesters (many of whom are now serving jail time) and law enforcement. The former group, largely composed of right-wing activists, claimed that the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies are constitutionally required to turn over much of the federal public land they manage to individual states. No Man's Land grimly documents the occupation from its inception to its dramatic demise and sheds light on the dangerously disenfranchised ideologues behind it.
The other jury award went to the decidedly cheerier Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, a star-powered foodie frenzy that reveals what some of the most influential chefs—among them Anthony Bourdain, Dan Barber, and Danny Bowien—are doing to "use the whole buffalo" i.e., turn what most would consider food scraps into dishes that wow gourmands and help foster a more secure food system. Wasted shows how food waste is contributing to climate change and lays out the small, often delicious changes that anyone can make to help respond to the ongoing crisis.
"Best Short" went to A Letter to Congress, a stirring three-minute film that shows off many of America's most wild and stunning places. The real star, however, is the soundtrack: a voiceover starring Wallace Stegner as he orates his 1960 letter to Congress emphasizing the importance of preserving wilderness. The effect couldn't be more prescient, nor Stegner's words more relevant to our current state. It's a kick in the pants to unify viewers against the transfer of public lands—arguably our most valuable heritage—to private and corporate interests.
Outdoor adventurers and anyone who loves an epic tale of reinvention would be wise to check out this year's "Most Inspiring Adventure Film," Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story. The unorthodox survival documentary tells the story of a vivacious young chef who in 2011 was shocked with 2,400 volts of electricity while hiking deep within Montana's backcountry. Despite doctors' prognosis that he was "a dead man with a heartbeat"—and the subsequent discovery that Garcia was harboring stage-2 testicular cancer—the protagonist, minus four ribs and his left hand, pulls off an emotional recovery. He also becomes an ambassador athlete and speaker for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and builds a better life after the tragedy—largely thanks, in his own estimation, to the healing power of time spent in the great outdoors.
The theme of this year's Wild & Scenic Film Festival was "Groundswell." "The idea is to encourage environmental awareness and action from the ground up—to provide the inspiration and tools people need to protect their hometown rivers and landscapes," said festival director and South Yuba River Citizens League executive director Melinda Booth. It felt appropriate, then, to see "Best in Theme" go to Water Warriors, a 22-minute film about a motley, multicultural group of Canadians—including members of the Mi'kmaq Elsipogtog First Nation, French-speaking Arcadians, and white, English-speaking families—that for months in 2013 set up a series of road blockades to keep frackers away from their beloved natural resources in New Brunswick. Not only does the community succeed in protecting their water from the oil and natural gas industry, but they also elect a new governing body and win an indefinite moratorium on fracking in their province. It'll inspire you, too.
You might not expect a jury of mostly white progressives to bestow its prestigious "Spirit of Activism" award upon a feature-length documentary that defends the infamous Inuit seal hunt. Out of Canada, the artfully nuanced Angry Inuk makes a strong case for the fruits of this hunt—both seals' meat and pelts—as a vital means of sustenance for Inuit peoples. Viewers journey to director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's beautiful community of Iqaluit to meet sealskin-dependent advocates, lawyers, and even seal fur clothing designers, all of whom are fighting to overturn the EU's ban on seal products. The devastatingly eye-opening Angry Inuk does much to highlight the importance of activists' responsibility to seek input from diverse voices, and the fallacy of drawing false distinctions between oppositional parties—in this case, native subsistence hunters and profit-driven commercial hunters.
As for "Best of Festival"? The most prestigious Wild & Scenic award went to Rodents of Unusual Size, which you may recall Sierra reviewing last month. The hair-raising feature-length documentary offers a lively message about the threat of invasive species (in this case monstrous 20-pound swamp rats that some Louisianans feel make for great pets) and showcases creative ways to address it.
A second jury, made up entirely of children, selected an alternate "Best of Festival" winner. The kids' award went to My Irnik, a 15-minute film about a young father and dog musher who finds delightful ways to teach his young son about the value of shared adventures, and of keeping their ancestral Inuit heritage alive.
Jonesing to check out these winners? You may be in luck. Wild & Scenic films are already en route to Berlin, Houston, Denver, Havre, Missouri, and beyond. Find the full touring schedule here. And if you'd like to channel some movie magic to inspire environmental action within your community, you can still apply to host a leg of the tour.
Happy viewing and change-making!
Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine.
Many people shop online for everything from clothes to appliances. If they do not like the product, they simply return it. But there's an environmental cost to returns.
- Are We Doomed If We Don't Curb Carbon Emissions by 2030 ... ›
- California Winery Cuts Carbon Emissions With Lighter Bottles ... ›
- Wealthy One Percent Are Producing More Carbon Emissions Than ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
- 14 States On Track to Meet Paris Targets - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Vows to Ax Keystone XL if Elected - EcoWatch ›
- Biden Names John Kerry as First-Ever Climate Envoy - EcoWatch ›
By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
<div id="da98c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="478a197b7c59c92787c92bec92f1ac39"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1331662923710693376" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Bristol Bay forever, Pebble mine never. #NoPebbleMine #SaveBristolBay https://t.co/CBQ9zuy8A5</div> — Save Bristol Bay (@Save Bristol Bay)<a href="https://twitter.com/SaveBristolBay/statuses/1331662923710693376">1606328156.0</a></blockquote></div>
- Pebble Mine Threatens One of the Last Great Salmon Rivers ... ›
- The Pebble Mine Is Too Toxic Even for the Trump Administration ... ›
- Trump Admin Reverses Obama-Era Restrictions on Pebble Mine ... ›
OlgaMiltsova / iStock / Getty Images Plus
By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.