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See a Film. Save the World.

Climate

With the Oscars taking place last Sunday, everyone has movies on the mind. If you're looking for great environmental films like the ones that come out of Sundance and Wild & Scenic Film Festival, look no further than the Environmental Film Festival, which runs March 17-29 in Washington, DC. Now in its 23rd year, it's the nation's largest and longest-running environmental film festival, which will screen more than 160 films on a wide range of environmental issues, and 96 of those films will either be DC, U.S. or world premieres.

The 2015 festival features films from 31 countries. Most screenings include discussions with filmmakers, environmental experts and cultural leaders. In addition to over 60 filmmakers who will present their film, speakers will include environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau, climate expert Joe Romm, actress Kristin Davis and Tommy Wells, the new Director of the District Department of the Environment.

The festival will also feature programs like the one that explores Cuba's vibrant coral reefs and considers the impact that lifting the U.S. embargo will have on the country’s pristine environment with renowned marine biologist Dr. David E. Guggenheim. There will also be panel discussions such as “Filmmakers as Catalysts for Change,” presented with The Climate Reality Project; “Film as a Tool for Peace and Climate Change;” and “OK, I’ve Watched the Film, Now What?” to further explore the topic of impact.

Films are screened at more than 55 venues throughout the Washington metropolitan area, including museums, embassies, libraries, universities and local theaters. More than 80 percent of programs are free.

Opening night will feature the Washington, DC premiere of Bikes Vs. Cars, Project Ice and Charlie's Country. Earlier that day there will be a screening of Pandas: The 3D Journey Home at the National Geographic Society and a screening of a few short films geared towards kids at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library. Check out below the trailers for the opening night films with descriptions provided by the film fest.

Bikes Vs. Cars: Traffic gridlock around the world is frustrating people, wasting their time, polluting the air and contributing to climate change. Director Fredrik Gertten (Bananas! and Big Boys Gone Bananas! about Latin American farm workers) investigates the daily global spectacle of traffic and looks for solutions. Following bicycle activists’ crusades to foster meaningful change, the film documents the struggle for bicyclists in a society dominated by cars. From bike activists in Sao Paulo and Los Angeles, fighting for safe bike lanes, to the city of Copenhagen, where forty percent commute daily by bike, Bikes Vs. Cars considers the revolutionary changes that could take place if more cities made room for bicyclists.

Project Ice: Formed by ice, filled by ice, often covered by ice, the Great Lakes encapsulate human exploration, migration, development and where we’re headed. Project: Ice views North America’s fresh water inland ocean through the prism of ice, from the crossroads of history, science and climate change. North America’s five Great Lakes contain a staggering twenty percent of all the fresh water on the planet. Lake Superior by itself holds ten percent of Earth’s fresh water. Our 4K digital cinema cameras explore this shared Canadian-American resource that holds a timely and telling story of geology, human movement, population growth, industrialization, cultural development, recreation and the profound impact people have had on the very environment they cherish and depend upon. Ice sits at the heart of it all. Directed by William Kleinert. Produced by William Kleinert, Leslie Johnson and Kevin Kusina.

Charlie's Country: Living in a remote Aboriginal community in the northern part of Australia, Charlie is a warrior past his prime. As the government increases its stranglehold over the community’s traditional way of life, Charlie becomes lost between two cultures. His new modern life offers him a way to survive but, ultimately, it is one he has no power over. Finally fed up when his gun, his newly crafted spear and his best friend’s jeep are confiscated, Charlie heads into the wild on his own, to live the old way. However, Charlie hasn’t reckoned on where he might end up, nor on how much life has changed since the old days. Directed by Rolf de Heer. Produced by Nils Erik Nielsen, Peter Djigirr and Rolf de Heer. Official Selection, Un Certain Regard, 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

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Protestors marched outside the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on Monday, August 26, during the MTV Video and Music Awards to bring attention to the water crisis currently gripping the city. Karla Ann Cote / NurPhoto / Getty Images

By Will Sarni

It is far too easy to view scarcity and poor quality of water as issues solely affecting emerging economies. While the images of women and children fetching water in Africa and a lack of access to water in India are deeply disturbing, this is not the complete picture.

The city of Flint, Michigan, where dangerous levels of pollutants contaminated the municipal water supply, is a case in point — as is, more recently, the city of Newark, New Jersey.

The Past is No Longer a Guide to the Future

We get ever closer to "day zeros" — the point at when municipal water supplies are switched off — and tragedies such as Flint. These are not isolated stories. Instead they are becoming routine, and the public sector and civil society are scrambling to address them. We are seeing "day zeros" in South Africa, India, Australia and elsewhere, and we are now detecting lead contamination in drinking water in cities across the U.S.

"Day zero" is the result of water planning by looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is no longer a guide to the future; water demand has outstripped supplies because we are tied to business-as-usual planning practices and water prices, and this goes hand-in-hand with the inability of the public sector to factor the impacts of climate change into long-term water planning. Lead in drinking water is the result of lead pipe service lines that have not been replaced and in many cases only recently identified by utilities, governments and customers. An estimated 22 million people in the US are potentially using lead water service lines. This aging infrastructure won't repair or replace itself.

One of the most troubling aspects of the global water crisis is that those least able to afford access to water are also the ones who pay a disproportionately high percentage of their income for it. A report by WaterAid revealed that a standard water bill in developed countries is as little as 0.1 percent of the income of someone earning the minimum wage, while in a country like Madagascar a person reliant on a tanker truck for their water supply would spend as much as 45 percent of their daily income on water to get just the recommended daily minimum supply. In Mozambique, families relying on black-market vendors will spend up to 100 times as much on water as those reached by government-subsidized water supplies.

Finally, we need to understand that the discussion of a projected gap between supply and demand is misleading. There is no gap, only poor choices around allocation. The wealthy will have access to water, and the poor will pay more for water of questionable quality. From Flint residents using bottled water and paying high water utility rates, to the poor in South Africa waiting in line for their allocation of water — inequity is everywhere.

Water Inequity Requires Global Action — Now.

These troubling scenarios beg the obvious question: What to do? We do know that ongoing reports on the 'water crisis' are not going to catalyze action to address water scarcity, poor quality, access and affordability. Ensuring the human right to water feels distant at times.

We need to mobilize an ecosystem of stakeholders to be fully engaged in developing and scaling solutions. The public sector, private sector, NGOs, entrepreneurs, investors, academics and civil society must all be engaged in solving water scarcity and quality problems. Each stakeholder brings unique skills, scale and speed of impact (for example, entrepreneurs are fast but lack scale, while conversely the public sector is slow but has scale).

We also urgently need to change how we talk about water. We consistently talk about droughts happening across the globe — but what we are really dealing with is an overallocation of water due to business-as-usual practices and the impacts of climate change.

We need to democratize access to water data and actionable information. Imagine providing anyone with a smartphone the ability to know, on a real-time basis, the quality of their drinking water and actions to secure safe water. Putting this information in the hands of civil society instead or solely relying on centralized regulatory agencies and utilities will change public policies.

Will Sarni is the founder and CEO of Water Foundry.

Note: This post also appears on the World Economic Forum.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.

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