Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

The City Dark (2012 San Francisco Green Film Festival) Addresses Light Pollution

Monday, March 5th, 2012

the city darkThey say we live in a bubble. What many people fail to realize is that the bubble in question looks like and feels like against light bulb. In that giant light bulb we humans continue to lose touch with anything beyond our own urban cityscape. Now with half of the worlds population living in urban centers people continue to lose their connection to the heavens and stars.

The City Dark (playing at the 2012 San Francisco Green Film Festival) addresses the questions surrounding the problem of light pollution in our society. Writer/director Ian Cheney takes a journey from his rural upbringing in Maine to New York City and examines how modern society continues to place an emphasis on “Bright Lights, Big City” mentality while ignoring the light pollution impact on people, animals, and the environment.

Cheney creates stirring night light images and adds flavorful animation as well as a rhythmic soundtrack to create cohesion in the dark. He brings up many well researched points including the possible effects of cancer rates and night shift workers exposed to lights, as well as the harmful effects that light pollution has on turtle migration and bird flight patterns.

Like a bird that runs smack into an over lit skyscraper, The City Dark contains some abrupt transitions such as the section involving a cancer patient who hosted a late night TV show for many years.

Although interesting and informative the film could have created more of a “call to action” for people wishing to further explore the possibilities of change. Even so, Cheney exemplifies his passion for demonstrating how the pollution in our cities is not relegated to the land and waterways. Look up.

Second San Francisco Green Film Festival Opens Today – On Coal River Top Pick

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

coal riverOne of the great aspects of the 2nd San Francisco Green Film Festival, March 1-7, 2012 lies in the eclectic lineup of enviro, sustinable, green based films. The varied selections come from other regions that might not be on the general green radar. On Coal River would be one of those deeply environmental films that register emotionally strong notes by way of West Virginia.

A few of us viewed On Coal River which that takes place in the bucolic mountain area of Coal River Valley which immediately brings us into a David and Goliath struggle with the town residents confronting the notorious Massey Energy (the same Massey Energy that had the coal mining disaster on April 5, 2010).

Directors Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood take a back roads approach for the footage and back-story. The films smartly keys on some of the more active residents and colorful residents who have either been coal miners or know coal miners. The film makers go out of there way to show how coal mining (or rather mountaintop removal) continues to be a vital aspect to the economy (although they point out that the percentage of miners sits significantly lower that in past years) but many people believe that this business has also become a toxic and environmental liability for local residents.

The film focuses on several local community members who like to call themselves hillbillies but also educated hillbillies. In the forefront stands former miner Ed Wiley an activist/environmentalist who fights the good fight to get people to recognize that their local elementary school where their children attend should be recognized as an environmental hazard. The filmmakers capture the passionate and emotional Wiley spearheading protest efforts, leading educational meetings as well as him walking from West Virginia to Washington DC to raise awareness and get his point across.

On Coal River does a great service by not creating an overly polished film, and by sticking to capturing real emotion. The rough footage works well to demonstrate that people will fight for an environmental cause in states other than west coast states. It offers some insight into what the other people who support Massey (mostly people concerned with the local economic concerns if they fight Massey) but the film doesn’t get any official response from the energy giant. Did Massey officials decline to be interviewed for this film? Although the focus on the school offers a solid storyline and a hot topic, the film might have added some additional conclusion and information about the polluted water supply and toxic health conditions. What good is it to have a new school when the water supply and air remain poisoned for the whole town?

Despite some loose threads, it is great to see an emotionally charged environmental film where David wears a hillbilly hat.

ON COAL RIVER
Francine Cavanaugh, 81 min, USA
Sat 3/3 – 3:30pm

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. at the 2011 Green Festival in San Francisco

Monday, November 14th, 2011

lennox green fest 2011 sfDid 2011 see us take a step backward in the Green movement?  It may be so with the residual cleanup from the BP oil spill and the federal government relaxing there stance on creating tougher emissions standards. The lost momentum on one side may be offset by the momentum gained on another. This philosophy came courtesy of Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. who spoke so passionately at the Green Festival in San Francisco this weekend whose spoke about “Green Mojo” How the Green Movement Can Get It Back and Keep It In The Future

Lennox voiced how the Green movement is about equality and existence not just organic foods and Prius cars. He talked about how the only green that took center stage this year came in the form of dollars from the Wall St one percent.

It remains an important aspect to connect the dots of environmental and economic justice. People who often lack economically often have little environmentally. It would benefit the Green movement to rally around the new found economic justice push and tie them together. Using this Green mojo will only allow the playing field of the Green movement to become more level and allow everyone to take part.

Semper Fi Documentary Film – Military Eco-intelligence?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

SemperFiposterIs there such a thing as Military Eco-intelligence? Normally we wouldn’t dare consider the military Eco-friendly considering all of the weapons and other military waste that they have left behind in their various closed military sites. Seeing the new documentary Semper-fi Always Faithful didn’t exactly change our minds.

When Marine Corp Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger’s nine-year old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, he sought to find answers. For years he struggled to find closure and answers to what happened. His persistent uncovering of information led to the shocking discovery of a Marine Corps cover-up of one of the largest water contamination incidents in U.S. history.

The film follows the personable and persistent Ensminger to expose the Marine Corp to their culpability of poisoning thousands of military personal as well a civilians in North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune. The film directors ( Tony Hardmon, Rachel Libert ) build on the momentum that Ensminger brings. The military trained him well. He acts like a marine on a mission who won’t take no for an answer. Ensminger carries the weight of exposing the environmental injustice of the Marines on his back and keeps his target in sights like an eagle-eyed sniper.

The film not only centers on Camp Lejeune but shows the environmental injustices in military bases and surrounding areas in various regions around the country. The film feels like a punch to the gut of the top brass of the Marines. How could they poison the water supply of the faithful people who make up the Marines then cover it up and deny? Sounds like typical military operations.

Semper Fi represents a rare opportunity to show marines and ex-marines as pseudo environmentalists, a position not normally associated with the military. A powerful film indeed and perhaps it will act as an early morning revelry and lead the troops to be always faithful to Jerry Ensminger and his environmental cause.

Environmental Films Screen At Upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival

Monday, September 19th, 2011
Eco-Pirate:The Story of Paul Watson

Eco-Pirate:The Story of Paul Watson

Is it our imagination or do the local film festivals continue to add more environmental based films to their screening lists. It must be a sign of the times. Just like the cold war themed films of the 60s many films, many current and upcoming films (both documentary and non-doc) hit various themes within the global environment. And we do mean global. The upcoming Mill Valley Film Festival contains several choice films of environmental interest that come from all over the globe including Canada, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, El Salvador and the US). We hope to get more info about these flicks beforehand  and cover them all.

Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect:

Eco-Pirate: The story of Paul Watson (Trish Dolman) Friday October 7th and Sunday October 9th.

Miss South Pacific: Beauty and the Sea a short film which precedes Sarabah (Friday October 7th.

New Environmentalists -a short film part of Our New Frontier: Sustainability screens October 8th and 15th.

New Frontier: Sustainable Ranching in the American West – another short that screens October 8th and 15th

Portrait of a Winemaker: John Williams of Frog’s Leap – this short hits close to home and people and wine aficionados will no doubt drink it up. (October 8th and 15th)

Transition Town Totnes – a final short that screens October 8th and 15th.

See you at the movies sustainable style.

Aquaponics Outside PCBC and West Coast Green

Friday, June 24th, 2011

P1010675How could anyone not notice the small box of growing vegetables sitting atop a large fish tank sitting outside the zero energy house at the entrance to the PCBC and West Coast Green conference? Sure, this unusual fish and vegetable combination drew a lot of eyeballs but did anyone stop to ask what the heck this sea-veggie contraption does? We did.

For those outside of the land Down Under, most people remain unaware of aquaponics. Australian farmers continue to use this sustainable way to grow fish and vegetables due to their continuing extreme drought conditions.

The concept behind aquaponics can be explained rather simply. The water and fish poop from the tank move upward into the stone filled bed which feeds the plants. The hydroton pebbles, imported from Germany, have bacteria that absorb the fish poop then convert the poop to nitrites then nitrates which is fertilizer. Okay, we’re not chemists but when Kevin Warnock who put this contraption together using parts from Costco and a fish supply place shows us that the plants grow six times faster than in dirt and the fish grow twice as fast as in the wild we have to think that this may be a good idea.

Even better, consider the water that can be saved. Not only do the vegetables use about 1/10th the water of vegetables grown in dirt but the systems needs no chemicals to clean the water. Kevin only adds water (for the fish and fish food) but no cleaners, chemicals or pesticides.

People can put this contraption in their patios for about $1000 or so but it works an a larger scale in Oz. Sign us up a veggie and fish farmers because with a sustainable system like this we could get used to eating salmon salad.

PCBC and West Coast Green Combination – Organic Architect Speaks

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

P1010666San Francisco might be known for food, liberalism and Green laws but also for density. Not the stupid kind but rather living in tight quarters. With those ideas, it made sense to combine PCBC and West Coast Green especially considering that real estate, especially new construction and Green building, continue to suffer greatly due to the economic downturn. After all dirty building and green building belong in the same event.

The crowds seemed a little thin on the first day at San Francisco’s Moscone Center but things will probably pick up during day two. One place where the crowd packed into the space was to see noted organic architect Eric Corey freed. The noted sustainable Howard Roark never disappoints in his presentations no matter the setting.

Freed offered his usual collection of bold, entertaining, outrageous slides to accompany his presentation. (Where does he get those photos?) A good portion of his 20 minute presentation focused on the car and how we have designed our society around the auto. Besides sprinkling in car facts such as the average American spends 84 hours stuck in traffic, and 94 percent of cars remain parked. So why do we have a love affair with our cars? Cars only destroy community which rings true in places like LA and Houston.

Even though Freed makes his living as a noted architect, his presentation weighed so heavily against the car that you might think that he changed his profession to bicycle inventor. His anti-car discussion eventually lead to several ideas to fix cities so that they change into people friendly instead of car friendly areas:

1-     Ban the lawns and replace with victory gardens.

2-     No straight streets.

3-     Require porous roads and lots to reduce water waste

4-     Make solar available as an over the counter purchase

5-     Bring back corner stores. This one we might not totally agree with unless the corner stores actually sell something besides processed crap.

6-     Encourage local real estate developers so that houses don’t look cookie cutter all over the US.

It’s good to have to someone thinking out of the box even if his requirements run on a slightly fascist model.

The Pipe – Little Community Versus Big Oil Documentary

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
The Pipe

The Pipe

Screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival  - 2011

In another documentary that takes the familiar   David versus Goliath
theme, the Irish entry “The Pipe” looks at the plight of the citizens of the small Irish enclave of Rossport versus Shell E & P Ireland. Shell wishes to lay the huge Corrib Gas Pipeline through the picturesque  community but the locals fights back.

The Pipe states that Shell refused to participate in the making of this film. The fact that an energy giant refused to offer their side doesn’t come as a big surprise.  Besides the film Crude, few of the community versus energy giant (e.g. On Coal River) docupics have included participation from the Goliath.

The Pipe’s director Risteard O Domhnaill quickly sets the mood and
location by offering glorious sweeping vistas, seascapes and verdant
shots of the local region. He captures the local fisherman catching
crabs, and others walking their dogs. All things that one would expect
people in the local community to take part in.

The Pipe quickly slides into a series of conflicts that that locals initiate
against the energy giant. The film captures the protests that have a
grass roots feel with sit ins, vocal demonstrations, and town
meetings. Much of the initial conflict pits the locals versus the town police, and then later shifts to infighting as the village residents argue about the best way to attack the energy giant.

The protests include the notable 2005 arrest of “The Rossport Five”
who made international news and served as the spark for the base of
the continuing flight against Shell.  Domhnaill follows one of the
Rossport Five, fisherman Willie Corduff who remains firm in the fight
against the pipeline construction.

Although the film creates a compelling story, it suffers somewhat from
repetition and fails to fully address certain local issues. The film skims over the involvement of local and governments and only focus on the battles
between the police and the residents.  Other “oil documentaries” such
as “Crude” create more complexity by delving into the various layers
in a big oil versus local community story.

Despite some of the shortcomings the film offers high production
values and colorful locals, and enough conflict to fill the a pipeline.  The
film’s energy picks up some of the slack but not enough to raise it to
the standards of other docufilms of this genre.

“The Pipe” screens Apr 30 and May 2

Green Festival Rolls Into San Francisco

Monday, April 11th, 2011
Joey Shepp

Joey Shepp

The Green festival rolled into San Francisco this past weekend with less fanfare than in the past. Not that the participants, vendors and speakers didn’t have the energy of years past but this recent version saw a drop in vendors and also in the overall show days (from 3 to 2). Maybe the festival needs work on the “less is more” thinking and revert to the November only event.

The event did offer some notable and thought provoking speakers. We spent time to hear local Joey Shepp discuss social media for sustainable business. Even for people experienced with sustainable business ideas he certainly added some innovative ideas. We saw several business people typing notes madly on the Smart Pads. Some of the products and ideas worth mentioning include: the Fujitsu scansnap that quickly scans documents and business cards and the like quickly and efficiently. Of course he mentioned the world of cloud computing and how they will cut down on paper use. He mentioned that currently products will be about what the client wants not what the company wants (crowd sourcing) and that great sustainable ideas don’t have to come from angel investors or VC with organizations like Kiva, Kickstarter, and Crowdfire as outlets for people to start their own business. With so much info, he quickly rushed through his belief that Wikileaks will add truth and cause companies (or governments) to be more transparent. It adds truth, and what remains is education and creativity.

The other thing that seemed to be generating buzz is the GMO talk. Organizations may be angling toward getting mandatory labeling of GMOs on the California ballot because a high percentage of consumers want GMO labeled and because supermarkets, products and apparently are government don’t want to be transparent about what our food contains.

Upcoming Picks for SFIFF 2011

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Pipe_Quad_Full_PosterWhen the SFIFF finally released its 2011 schedule, a few films initially struck our fancy. The Irish documentary “The Pipe” takes a look at a grassroots effort to halt the construction of a oil pipeline through one a pristine area of a small Irish town. Not only does the community battle the behemoth oil company but a largely compliant state as well.

Sticking with the theme of energy, the “Light Thief ” caught our eyes as a local electrician known as Mr. Light finds himself in a dilemma when a politician embraces the idea of generating wind energy for his destitute town.

Although we enjoy seeing the green wave of films with an environmental slant, we also maintain a keen eye for good film so that means the Errol Morris film “Tabloid” about the bizarre 70s tale of girl gone wild Joyce McKinney.

We keep salivating about Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” which we hear tastes like a food version of “Sideways”. We hope that it comes served organically.

Happy viewing.