Round up of great documentaries about environmental issues

Environmental Film

Environmental Film

Issues that affect the entire planet can sometimes be difficult to grasp from a book or an article. Fortunately, there are increasingly more
filmmakers creating great documentaries that provide footage of the actual effect climate change and other environmental issues are having on the world, on ecosystems, and the people living on the planet. The great part about it is that many of them are also available online for free. I have selected some of the ones I watched recently and provided them here for you (you don’t even need to leave this page. Well… Almost.):

Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization (2011)

 Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization was produced by PBS as one of the episodes of the series Journey to Planet Earth. It is a great documentary because it lays out many of the environmental issues we are facing, but also provides a hopeful road map of ways to solve them.


Climate Refugees (2010)

Climate Refugees is an amazing award-winning documentary that discusses people who have been displaced due to environmental disasters caused by climate change and how we should expect more people to face problems like these in the near future. It provides a very powerful statement that brings up many important questions about human rights, immigration, and responsibility in these issues.


Blue Gold (2008)

Blue Gold is a great documentary about the most basic and precious resource we need as living creatures: water. It talks about the very serious issues relating to water scarcity and how that is already affecting many people and could potentially become a major cause of conflict in the world.


Chasing Ice (2012)

Chasing Ice is this beautiful and powerful award-winning documentary about climate change, but you’ll have to come to the Environmental Center’s next REEL Film Experience fundraiser on December 5th, 2013 to watch it. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to see this film and support the EC!

~ Hari Baumbach, Climate Action Team

Climate change: it’s here & happening

Climate Change has been a hot topic in recent years and as the effects of it continue to worsen, the question still stands, what are we going to do about it? The Climate Action Team is a brand new team this year that is focusing on tackling the issue of climate change and how to address it on campus and in the community. One of the biggest challenges our team faces is figuring out how to talk to people on campus and in town about climate change since it can tend to be a touchy subject with some people. Though it has been a challenge, it is also very exciting to figure out how to solve this issue because it is one that we will be facing a lot more.

Another issue that we are faced with is figuring out whether to focus on educating about mitigation or adaption to climate change. After researching and looking at the reality of things, we felt that the best approach is educating people about adaption to climate change since we have already felt and experienced the effects of climate change and these events will only continue and intensify over the years. Our team is ready for the challenge and we are currently doing extensive research on climate change in order to come up with ideas for our next project we want to tackle. We can’t wait to see what the rest of this year brings us and hope that we can lay a great foundation for this team so future members will be able to continue the work we start and make a positive impact.

By Katie Gustin, member of Climate Action Team

A philosophical reflection of Joseph DesJardins’ “Environmental Ethics”

Many people are too consumed by artificial desires to realize the devastation our environment has come to know. Furthermore, we fail to acknowledge that this devastation is a result of our own ways of thinking and, in turn, our actions. By considering ourselves separate from our environment, we abolish the very real interconnectedness we share. However, after reading and analyzing Environmental Ethics by Joseph DesJardins, I have come to know that we can down play the destruction of our environment and ourselves. Re-evaluating our values will help us to better distinguish our needs, wants, and interests. We can create new communal models that allow for not only ourselves as humans here and now to prosper, but for future generations, not limited to humans nor biotic organisms, to grow and develop sustainably. All it takes for reducing our negative impact on the environment is acknowledging the fact that we have caused the destruction, understanding that our survival is dependent upon the continuation of a healthy natural world, analyzing our personal values, and promoting a lifestyle of respect for the environment that defines us. For many people, the necessary shift in consciousness that would allow the aforementioned steps to take place would disrupt their lifestyle dramatically. Yet, if an individual holds any concern at all, whether it be a selfish or selfless concern for the environment, it is easy to start climbing the ladder to what deep ecologists call their two ultimate norms: self-realization and biocentric equality.

Environmental Ethics By Joseph R. DesJardins

Environmental Ethics By Joseph R. DesJardins

I side with deep ecologists that “the cause of environmental and ecological destruction lies with cultural and social factors that are deeply entrenched in the contemporary world” (DesJardins, 206). Deep ecology recognizes the dominant worldviews that guide society’s decision-making, especially reductionism and individualism. I, however, will focus mostly on materialism and consumerism. On a most basic level, reconditioning our behaviors and habits is a strenuous process requiring us to weigh out rewards and punishments. It is difficult to reform habits; the best way to go about doing so is to start small and work up. In other words, begin to live a more environmentally friendly life with one-time tasks versus everyday ones: Buying energy efficient light bulbs versus starting a compost bin. Consider your options before making a purchase: think economically in the sense of “Will this benefit or harm the environment? How does the packaging of product A or B contribute to the amount of accumulated waste? Is this product beneficial for me in the long or short term?”

Another example of people manipulated by these dominant worldviews is collectors. A woman living modestly in her home is a collector of cats. Even if she is at peace with her cats, we find her idea of happiness a joke and something to criticize. What is more daunting is the part of our society that can only think about making money off collectors. We dedicate airtime to “Hoarders” who are so out of touch with real, intrinsic, value that they consume their lives with materialism and consumerism and eventually hurt those around them who are trying to help the situation. That hoarder was most likely on a constant cycle similar to the one mentioned in the mini-documentary “The Story of Stuff”(See video below.) I’m going to work now so I can buy this stuff so I can be happy and when happiness fades I will have more money to buy more stuff to be temporarily happy again. All this cycle does is bring you and the environment closer to death sooner. It calls for more resources to be depleted to produce more stuff to bring temporary happiness and long term waste accumulation. British writer Oscar Wilde portrayed the human condition of cynicism well with his words “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

The Story of Stuff (2007 Official Version)

I especially liked the way that DesJardins compared the deep ecologists’ process of identifying the underlying causes of environmental destruction to a doctor’s medicinal practice of getting to the root cause of an illness. Just as a deep ecologist or a doctor, we as individuals should practice this psychological “step back” to come to a better relationship with our own personal philosophies.

My most vivid memory of this stepping back process occurred in 2010. I had been in the Sonoran desert of Arizona for two weeks backpacking with another thirty or so students and leaders. While there, I appreciated the natural beauty that surrounded me and felt a great bond formed between myself and the landscape. Upon returning to civilization, I was struck with a great deal of unsettling contemplation; I felt like Tarzan coming to the city and thought: “What is all this noise? Why is everyone on this paved road so persistent on getting to work so they can sit there and be unhappy? Everyone seems so snobby and ungrateful, so attached to their devices that tell them important things about what they value.” I did not want to go home, nor did I want to be anywhere near what I called home because it seemed despicable compared to the nature that had enveloped me for the past two weeks. The one amenity I did appreciate once I got home was hot running water. My trip to the desert influenced me to reconsider what I really needed in life. It is unfortunate that we cannot force someone out into the wild, away from the asphalt and concrete, just so they can take that psychological step back and reconsider why they do the things they do to get the things they think they need to be happy.

“Sonoran Desert Resembling A Deep Sea Floor” by Libby Gobble, 2010

“Sonoran Desert Resembling A Deep Sea Floor” by Libby Gobble, 2010

From my perspective, people in America are very out of touch with how to distinguish between needs, wants, and interests. I wonder if a change of scenery such as my desert trip could be the solution to reducing environmental destruction by encouraging more people to question their personal philosophies. Change allows critical thinking and evaluation to take place which brings an individual closer to understanding oneself and their relationship with the natural world. It would be my hope that it would not be just a romanticist dreamscape where once nature is out of sight, it is out of our minds.

I have found through reading DesJardins’ Environmental Ethics to call everything into question in order to better understand myself and my place in the world. Most of the questions I have asked in regards to ethics are those of metaphysics and ontology: What is success? Why do we value certain goods over others? Who are we to attempt to determine who and what else has “moral standing?” Deep ecology appeals to me because it strives to answer questions such as these. Also, the process of self-realization and recognition of biocentric equality inspire me to reconsider my personal values. More specifically, I have come to question what we value as human beings and why exactly we value certain things.

What we value depends on our own personal moral hierarchies. Two distinct “selves” govern the way we choose some interests over others, according to DesJardins, “One is the self constituted by the conscious beliefs, wants, and intentions of the ego. The other self is the true nature that underlies this person’s ego” (Desjardins, 217). Materialism and consumerism are the predominant ways in which we display if we value something instrumentally or intrinsically. This would conclude that our values are determined by our ego which is constructed by the advertising and competition put in place by dominant worldviews.

In the decision making process, we must consider who we will affect by choosing one thing to value over another. To do this with ethics in mind, we must consider future generations and recognize the differences, yet vast interconnectedness of both abiotic and biotic communities as well as poor nations and wealthy ones. When we consider these three groups, materialism and consumerism seem so unimportant. The way we choose our value receiving audience is dependent upon which version of your two selves you find more authentic, promising, worthwhile, and happy. Is it the self-governed-self or conditioned-by-society self? The surface self or the underlying self? If you are selfish in your actions you are a care taker, but selflessly you are a care giver. One would think that decisions would be made in a non-anthropocentric, holistic mindset. In doing so, we view nature more intrinsically which allows for an ethics of virtue to be fulfilled.

In order to overcome these dominant worldviews, we must change radically as individuals and cultures rather than simply reform old ethics. With the knowledge I have acquired through reading Environmental Ethics, I am confident in stating that the people involved in making decisions for our country seem to be out of touch with their underlying self. Because of this, policies are being based off of false values by people who do not want to recognize the destruction of our environment, take responsibility, and acknowledge the “oneness.” In the seventies, people valued things differently than today. Consequently, we should not be living by policies from that time. Instead, our policies should evolve through time just as a species adapts alongside nature. Modern government and economics is dominated by utilitarianism. It is understandable that a Utilitarian would want to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number; however, this “good” is dominated by this out of touch way of thinking and therefore does not do the best thing every time. It is obvious that our consumerist demands affect the natural world negatively. Traditional ethics does not recognize this fact or the interconnectedness of themselves and the natural world. Thus, we need a radical shift, not an extension of tradition, to adapt our ethics to the ethical issues of today. This begins with a different view of ourselves as individuals to end the consumerist habits that tell us what we want and instead start determining who we are in character.

It depends on the eye of the beholder, but also the mental strength of the underlying self to feel motivated to re-examine personal and cultural values in order to create new worldviews. This not only includes a shift from acts of selfishness to acts of selflessness, but also recognition of the reality of environmental destruction. We need to break down this mime box that society built around our underlying self and look towards what is out of sight in order to get reality back in our mind. Therefore, in order to form a society that strives for goals with intrinsic, rather than inherent, value, we must begin showing people at young ages how to define their underlying self so that things like materialism and consumerism seem unappealing. Perhaps this includes more emphasis on outdoor recreation. Physical and mental prosperity can come with wealth, but wealth should not be the only road to success if you and Mother Earth are not happy on the journey. We created the cycle, we can re-create it, too.

By Libby Gobble, Zero Waste Team member

Real Food Challenge update

It has been an active semester for the Real Food Challenge Team (RFCT) at Fort Lewis College (FLC). Attempting to move the Real Food Challenge (RFC) forward at FLC has been the team’s top priority since last fall when they began working on the initiative. Specifically, the RFC is a nation-wide campaign that aims to provide students with particular resources to gain the interest of their respective college toward purchasing 20 percent of their annual food budget of “real food”. Real food refers to food that meets particular sets of criteria found in four categories: fair, local, humane and ecologically-sound.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school's food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

Real Food Challenge Team members promote Real Food Day, a meal which provided local foods to students made possible by the partnership of the school’s food vendor, Sodexo, and the EC.

Thus far, the team has set their agenda to achieve this goal by continuously meeting to form projects, goals and education around the challenge, in conjunction with staff from the Environmental Center (EC), FLC and Sodexo (the college’s dining hall food service. Preceding the current semester, the team was fortunate enough to have FLC Environmental Studies intern Laura Owens evaluate a semester’s worth of Sodexo’s food purchases for FLC using what is known as the real food calculator. With the systematic methodology and rigorous research of the calculator, she revealed that, currently, Sodexo purchases about 4.6 percent of real food per semester.

With a bit over 15 percent more real food needed to be bought annually to reach the overall goal of the challenge, the team is continuing to seek innovation and progress. This is a two-fold process: they’ll look to expand on educational type events for students, faculty, community and other college staff members, while doing additional research and analysis aimed at better efficiency in general and enhancing the processes by which they measure their results. The former of these has been somewhat more practically-driven as of recently. For example, on October 24, 2013, the RFCT, EC and Sodexo, put together a real food meal event at FLC. Essentially, the lunch showcased mostly a small variety of local meats and vegetables, as well as some foods which met the other four criterion of the RFC. From the staff of Sodexo to the students of FLC, the day made important connections, and illuminated the progress the RFC is making at the FLC campus. The latter of these tasks has involved reaching out to leaders within the RFC and student leaders from other campuses across the country, which the RFCT can utilize in terms of their successes and failures, etc.

Currently, the RFCT is work on planning more real meal days, including one more this

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

Sodexo sourced ingredients for the Food Day meal from local Durango farmers, meeting at least one of the four criterion of the Real Food Challenge.

semester in December. They are also working on creating a press kit and a webpage. In doing so, they will open a new wave of media outreach which should help spread the word about the RFC here at FLC. Furthermore, a few team members have shifted their focus upon contacting other schools committed to the RFC to learn from their experiences. So far, what they have found is that is that the RFCT and EC may want to consider working on further analyzing the calculator results to highlight the campaign and raise its awareness. Similarly, it has been found that more education and learning opportunities need to be provided to the Sodexo staff in order to foster a stronger relationship with the FLC food vendor. Needless to say, the following weeks and semester ought to be full of busy and important work for this team.

By C.J. Clayton, RFCT member

Community comes together to help local farms

September’s destructive weather greatly devastated many of Durango’s local farmers but has also brought the community together to salvage Durango’s local food supply.

On Wednesday, September 18, heavy hail destroyed many of Durango farmers’ crops, including Adobe House Farm and Linnaea Farms. A lot of these local farms supply the farmer’s market and local restaurants. Linda Illsley of Linda’s Local Food Café, whose mission on their webpage is to use mainly local and Colorado grown organic food, stepped up to help her local farmers. Illsley got a call from Linley Dixon of Adobe House Farm, that their main crash crop, tomatoes, that Illsley was going to buy from Linley, was hit by the hail.

“We didn’t assess the damage until about Thursday

Linda Illsley (right) from Linda’s Local Foods working with Linley Dixon (left) of Adobe House, at the Durango Farmer’s Market. - The Independent

Linda Illsley (right) from Linda’s Local Foods working with Linley Dixon (left) of Adobe House, at the Durango Farmer’s Market. – The Independent

morning, and it was about 9:30 when I called Linda and said it’s all gone,” said Dixon.

It was not all gone and there was still some hope. Illsely contacted Beth LaShell, coordinator of the Old Fort, to spread the word that at least a 1,000 pounds of tomatoes needed to be harvested, and they needed urgent help. LaShell sent out an e-mail to Fort Lewis Students and that e-mail was forwarded by Rachel Landis, coordinator of the Fort Lewis Environmental Center. The e-mail recruited students to help both Adobe House Farm and Linnaea Farms.

“Adobe House Farm’s crops were destroyed by hail and they are gleaning as much produce as possible today.  Linley Dixon (owner) estimates at least 1,000 pounds of tomatoes need to be harvested today,” said LaShell’s e-mail.

About 50 people came out that Thursday to help harvest tomatoes at Adobe House Farms, and about 25 people came on Friday to help some more. They got all of the tomatoes out of the field before they would have started rotting and saved about 5,000 pounds of tomatoes. A majority of the tomatoes were green with holes in them and would have begun to ripen in the next couple of weeks. A buyer of Adobe House’s tomatoes and the restaurant Zia Taqueria helped support the farm and lent out their walk-in cooler to help preserve the tomatoes.

They then had three or four days to run the tomatoes from the cooler and into the freezer before the tomatoes would begin to rot. Illsley lent out her restaurant to be used as a place to chop up the tomatoes and save them in her freezer. Each day about 10 people, who Illsley had contacted on Facebook and through LaShell, helped out in the kitchen chopping tomatoes for that whole weekend.

“It was amazing. I think the take home lesson for me was to ask for help more often. I think a lot of people, even when the farm was ripped to shreds when they got there, were blown away at how pretty it still was. I think people still want access to farms. I think finding a way to give them access is a goal for the future,” said Dixon.

Daniel Amermam, a Fort Lewis Student, was one of the volunteers that responded to the call for help. He volunteered for two hours with other students and volunteers, picking tomatoes and other leafy crops at Adobe House Farms. Amermam did not personally receive the e-mail but was told by a friend what had happened, so he decided to lend a helping hand.

“I wish I would have known about it sooner. I probably would have gone earlier,” said Amermam.

He plans to do what he can to help again in the future.

“It was great to see the smiles on their faces and the gratitude they were giving us. I got a free meal at Linda’s afterwards,” said Amermam.

Fellow students had similar experiences and students of the Fort Lewis Environmental Center have decided to form a response team that will keep helping local farms and communities in a crisis.

“Based off some of the folks’ experiences going to help clean up the farms that were destroyed by our last hail and mudslide event, they saw how necessary it is to be able to mobilize a large amount of people quickly to help support our community. So they want to get a whole group of folks together at the click of an e-mail,” said Landis.

The experience of the community coming out to help their local farms shows that people want local foods and want to support their farmers and keep them in business. Local restaurants collaborating with the farms and the relationship between Linda’s Local Foods and Adobe House Farm, demonstrates how the community can work together to recover from a devastating event.

Adobe House Farm didn’t know what to do with their unripened tomatoes they gleaned.

“We will make chutneys. We will make salsas. We will figure something out,” said Illsley.

With the help of volunteers and local restaurants, none of the damaged tomatoes of Adobe House Farm was gone to waste.

“It was just one of those magical moments, when the community came together to support somebody that needed the help. It also triggered a conversation about food waste and lack of access by certain populations, like students at the Fort Lewis College. And, how we really did have the capacity to create abundance if we just organized,” said Illsley.

An example of an organization that tries to provide free food is the Grub Hub, a food bank that gets donations to give free food to Fort Lewis College students. They get most of their donations from Manna Soup Kitchen. Colin Clausen, volunteer at the Grub Hub, said that their amount of fresh produce has decreased compared to last year. This may be accounted for by the weather and the farms hit by the weather.

“Last year we were still getting produce into November, and we’ve already stopped, and it’s October,” said Clausen.

Even with the devastating weather that hit Durango, it was shown that food could be salvaged and supplied to the community. With more organization and help from volunteers to local farms, abundance could be created to provide for the town of Durango and the Fort Lewis College community. Farmers struggle to stay in business in Durango, and with the community’s help and the farmers willing to ask for help, more local food can be provided to the whole town.

“Financially it is a struggle. You are lucky to make a couple thousand at the end of the summer of really hard work. We had some savings also, but we all worked a couple jobs in the winter just so we could farm and do what we love,” said Dixon.

 

By Madison Chamberlain, Reporter at “The Independent,” Fort Lewis College’s student newspaper

Sodexo supplies students with a local food meal

Students of Fort Lewis College enjoyed a lunch that was fresh, delicious, and in sync with their ideals last Thursday, October 24, 2013. Together, Sodexo Dining Services and students from the Environmental Center compiled and promoted a meal made with “real” food to celebrate Food Day. In total, approximately 300 people were served.

So what is real food? Real food is something that you eat— it comes from your community (Local). It ensures that the producers or farmers who grew it got paid a fair price (Ethical).  If what you eat includes animal products, then these animals are kept content and healthy (Humane). Finally, this food is something you put in your mouth that is not produced in ways harmful for the planet (Environmentally Sound).

If reading about those types of foods makes your stomach grumble, don’t worry, there will be more real food on campus very soon. These meals are part of a larger project called the Real Food Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to serve 20% real food in the dining hall on a regular basis. Over a hundred other colleges around the United States have adopted the Real Food Challenge, and we want Fort Lewis to join their ranks.

Are you someone who gets excited about real food, but you know it is out of your price range? Perhaps one of the most exciting things about The Real Food Challenge is that colleges investing a large chunk of money into the real food market will drive the cost down for the individual eater. The Real Food Challenge is pushing for access for healthy food for everyone.

How can you get your hands on some real food and support permanent change on campus? Stay tuned for more meals like this one! These meals are a great way to show the administration your support of the Real Food Challenge. There are also items that are sold on a regular basis that are real: James Ranch burgers, Dessert Sun Coffee, and beets and carrots grown by Fields to Plate at the salad bar! By choosing these items, you can “vote with your dollar” and see more real food on campus. Happy eating!

By Melanie Weber-Sauer, member of the Real Food Challenge team