Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Green Film Picks At The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012

Monday, April 16th, 2012
Last Call at the Oasis

Last Call at the Oasis

With the San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 just around the corner, we wanted to offer a Green/Sustainable  sneak at some of the Green themed films on the festival plate.

Most of the Green themed films come in the form of documentaries such as Bitter Seeds, which delves into a story of how genetically modified seeds in India continue to make farmers desperately poor. This film could be particularly relevant with several US states attempting to get GMO food labeling on the 2012 ballots.

We’ve seen water films in the past and we’re excited (and frightened) to see Last Call at the Oasis, which focuses on the ever-increasing global water crisis. This documentary from Oscar-winner and Palo Alto native Jessica Yu, shot by SF local Jon Else also features several Bay Area experts, deals with the impending worldwide fresh water shortage.

We also heard good things about a narrative film, called Valley of Saints, which deals with fisherman who battle water pollution  and shrinking water supply in Dal Lake in the Kashmir region of India.

Green films here we come.

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.

True Sustainable Eco Lodge At Hix Island House In Vieques

Friday, January 13th, 2012
Casa Solaris

Casa Solaris

The tourism department for Puerto Rico claims that the ex-military base for the US turned tourist destination Vieques offers visitors a eco-island experience. They may claim eco-island status as a whole however we had to search pretty diligently to find anything authentically eco friendly. Our diligence paid off with a visit to the muy verde Hix Island House

Our timing couldn’t have been better as the hillside eco resort recently opened a new additional called Casa Solaris. We see many lodges called “eco lodges” but Hix Island House offers a true and tranquil eco-villa experience.  Firstly, the architect John Hix created his new Casa Solaris building completely off the grid. The completely self contained wing offers six minimalist designed rooms powered by both a photovoltaic system and solar hot water. The pool also gets its heat from the nearby solar panels and contains a locally used a low chemical cleaning system significantly less toxic than the typical chlorine based products.

Speaking of water, in addition to dual flush toilets, the building contains a greywater system that transports used sink and shower water to the nearby field to irrigate the soon to be planted bananas trees and other indigenous fruits.

Lest we forget abut the materials used to create the building. Originally John Hix wanted to use wood however he discovered that wood doesn’t hold up well through hurricanes so he opted for concrete. The use of concrete in the overall design includes the floor, walls, countertops and showers. The al fresco shower may be the best experience with the cement floor and walls, the views of the rain forest and ocean, as well as the fact that the heated water comes via the sun.

We also enjoyed the fresh baked bread and the local fruit (Mango). One of our few disappointments comes from the fact that locals don’t grow more local tropical fruit (Corazon, passion fruit) which they grow on the main island. The Hix Island House staff already planted various fruit trees to rectify that issue.

Besides letting guests know about the sustainable design of this villa, they continue to educate the locals so that Viequenses will use the sustainable knowledge to create sustainable homes and lodges of their own.

The education, design and sustainability make the Hix Island House one of the true eco-resorts not only in Puerto Rico but in todo el mundo.

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.

New Environmental Documentary Patagonia Rising Plays at DocFest 2011

Monday, October 10th, 2011

IMG_0687We all make decisions in life. For Chile they have a whopper of a decision that centers on Patagonia. The new documentary film Patagonia Rising that plays at Doc Fest 2011 revolves around issues that will likely alter the region and have far reaching effects in the future.
Patagonia Rising investigates a plan to build five large hydroelectric dams on two of the world’s purest free flowing rivers in Patagonia, Chile.

The film highlights the various cultural communities caught in the middle of a conglomerate with their renewable energy plan, scientists with alternative energy ideas, local pro-dam business people and various local citizens who claim that their culture and livelihood will cease to exist if these dams become a reality.

Besides power and energy, the film also delves into the issue of water rights. As fresh water becomes scarcer, it will someday move ahead of oil as the resource that countries fight over.

The title refers to the climate change that has affected the glacial melt and overflow of many rivers that flow through the region. The film displays how flooding continues to dramatically disrupt communities, agriculture and lifestyle.

Like other enviro doc films, Patagonia Rising creates a well-balanced story that brings awareness to an important situation. Oakland based director Brian Lilla offers some stunning cinematography and subtly brings a human aspect to the situation. Althugh the film offers a mostly anti-dam slant, Lilla attempts to give all sides a voice and let the viewers decide for themselves. Although interesting and insightful, the film lacks emotion and raw energy that other docu films offer. Many of the locals who highlight Lilla’s focus lack dynamism which causes a certain passiveness to the film. A film like this needs more energy and outrage.

The film, produced in 2010, has a fairly short shelf life, with the hydroelectric decision to be made sometime in 2011. Depending on that outcome, the film could represent a historical archive of how things once appeared in Patagonia.

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

On Coal River Screens At SF Docfest 2010

Monday, October 11th, 2010

coal riverOne of the great aspects of the upcoming 9th San Francisco Documentary  Festival is not only the number of environmental based docu films but the fact that the eclectic selection comes 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
Fri 10/22 9:30p; Mon 10/25 7:15p

Great Plastic Adventure Completes Journey

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Plastiki arrival in Sydney

Plastiki arrival in Sydney

It seemed like just a short while ago that David De Rothschild set sail from San Francisco aboard his boat made of 12,500 plastic PET bottles, the Plastiki touched base in the planned destination of Sydney the other day.

De Rothschild and his crew completed the historic expedition in four legs: San Francisco – Kiribati – Western Samoa – New Caledonia before reaching the Australian Coast (Mooloolaba) on Monday 19 July and continuing on to Sydney. The innovative catamaran carrying a crew of six made its trip without major incident.

De Rothschild’s inspiration for this journey came after reading the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) report ‘Ecosystems and Biodiversity in Deep Waters and High Seas’. His journey included sailing through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

While most cruise ships maintain poor to awful records of creating pollution the Plastiki set out to educate people about the use and misuse of plastic bottles. The Plastiki which uses core principles of “cradle-to-cradle” design and biomimicry receives 68% of her buoyancy from 12,500 reclaimed plastic soft drink bottles and the super structure is made of a unique recyclable plastic material made from a self-reinforcing PET called Seretex.

Hopefully more people will put down their two liter plastic soda bottles to realize how much plastic we overuse in our throwaway society and how we can move toward inspired ideas as a sustainable alternative.

Outside Lands – Day 2 – Bands and Sustainability

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Live from Outside Lands day two (Green posse in tow), today we focus on some of the artists. After all, for most people Outside Lands remains about the music. But unlike many festivals or shows Outside Lands offers a significant numbers of bands and singers who either have some direct social justice, environmental or artistic causes that they support or create.

Pearljam, who rocked us (despite poor Eddie Veder’s scratchy throat) last night has been offsetting their tours since 2006. The social and environmentally minded rockers fight corporate monopolies, create and cover songs with social and environmental angles (no surprise that they they covered Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” among other tunes last night), and donate even donate their bank to alt energy projects.

Tonight, another powerhouse in the sustainable movement the Dave Matthews Band hits the main stage. These band helped start a project called the Bama Green Project which maintains a partnership between Reverb and IZSTYLE, and encompasses various environmental efforts that the band commits to while on the road, in the studio and at home. The DMB and the Bama Green Project works on educating DMB fans around the world about how to take simple and positive environmental actions.  It’s good to know that we have some help in this educational environmental thing.

It’s not all about the big bands, smaller bands such as Blind Pilot, who toured the West Coast twice now on their bicycles, Lila Downs (who unfortunately canceled at the last minute) creates education funds for women down in Oaxaca Mexico), and West Indian Girl did their last tour with a bio diesel RV.

Hopefully, Outside Lands and other festivals will invite more bands with a social and environmental conscience. Sure the music is important but it doesn’t mean that the bands can’t do something good for someone or something else as well.

Back to work as the music continues…..

Green House Meets Gas Guzzler

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

ho_greenhouse_5.jpg

You might say that San Francisco Green thinking still has a way to go after we spotted a un-Green SUV (Range Rover) in the garage of an already well publicized Noe Valley Green house.
After speaking with the one of the owners they admit that it’s hardly Green to drive the gas guzzler but they say that it’s leased. And they have a hybrid SUV on their radar for their next purchase. As for how they’re adapting to and how they like some of the interior green attributes inside the house well that’s for a future entry.