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Mountainfilm in Telluride Inspires Conversation and Action on Issues That Matter

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Mountainfilm in Telluride Inspires Conversation and Action on Issues That Matter

Even though I won't be attending this year's Mountainfilm in Telluride, CO, May 23 – 25, I'm still excited about the lineup of environmental films. All week, EcoWatch will highlight the eco-documentaries featured at Mountainfilm that will educate, inspire and motivate people about the issues that matter, including Mission BlueSylvia Earle's plan to save the ocean; the world premier of Dear Governor Hickenlooper, a collection of documentary films providing a new perspective on fracking and clean energy; and Wrenched, a film that “captures the passing of the monkey wrench from the pioneers of eco-activism to the new generation which will carry Edward Abbey’s legacy into the 21st century.”

Mountainfilm was started in 1979 and is one of America’s longest-running film festivals. I've been told the best way to sum-up the festival in one word is: inspiring.

Mountainfilm is a world-renowned annual film festival on Memorial Day weekend in Telluride, CO.

“We’re not your average film festival," said Festival Director David Holbrooke. “We’ve evolved to include many surprise approaches and platforms. After 35 years, we want to keep it interesting for everyone." 

In addition to screening some 90 leading independent documentary films from around the world, the festival features a full-day symposium on a critical contemporary issue, art and photography exhibits, early morning coffee talks, book signing party, ice cream social, student programs and closing picnic/awards ceremony.

This year's Moving Mountains Symposium is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. This groundbreaking legislation established American wilderness as “an area where the Earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

“It’s an exciting topic that we’ve been considering for years,” said Mountainfilm Program Director Emily Long.

“The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is a perfect springboard to discuss wilderness, which has been threaded into the DNA of our festival since its inception. As John Muir eloquently expressed: ‘Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.’”

Presentations and panels are scheduled throughout Memorial Day weekend. Featured speakers include: oceanographer, author and lecturer Sylvia Earle; climate activist and co-founder of Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher, who spent two years in federal prison after saving thousands of acres of federal land threatened by oil and gas extraction; leading environmentalist and activist who founded the group Earth First! and the Rewilding Institute, Dave Foreman; wildlife biologist and vice president for research, conservation and exploration at the National Geographic Society, John Francis; founder of the Living Wild School, Lynx Vilden; National Geographic Emerging Explorer and environmentalist, Juan Martinez; President of The Wilderness Society, Jamie Williams; Executive Vice President and senior scientist at Conservation International, M Sanjayan; and more.

While nothing can replace experiencing the festival in person, this short video captures the essence of this world-renowned gathering:

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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