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Film series chronicles local environmental concerns

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The Downstream Film Series, screened in Tomson Hall on Saturday, Feb. 11, focused on “The Story” told in our society about environmentalism and environmental activism, with each narrative presented as biting and substantial as the one before. Presented by the Cannon River Watershed Project, the screening consisted of two short films, a documentary and a Q&A with members of the community afterward. Despite the heavy subject matter, the event itself managed to pull off a surprisingly hopeful and uplifting tone.

The first short film, “Who Are You Now?” was created by Carleton graduate Charlie Kilman and set the tone for the evening by chronicling Northfield’s past when dealing with indigenous peoples.

“The creativity, presentation, visual, audio and voice over effects along with the personal aspects of the story really made it powerful,” Paddy Mittag-McNaught ’20 said.

After that preface came “Something… Something… Save the Planet,” a short film created by Jack Bachmann ’17, Griffin Baumeister ’16 and Peder Tune ’17. This film highlighted the feeling of local indigenous peoples in regards to environmentalism and the future.

Finally, came the feature film of the night, “This Changes Everything.” Created by Avi Lewis, this documentary begins by following the narrative of two oil spills, one in Beaver Lake, Canada (which is located on Beaver Lake Cree Nation land) and another in Montana. It takes a rather demoralizing tone as you watch locals fight for their land and livelihoods, unable to match the legal prowess of the corporations they are up against.

However, throughout the next hour, it chronicles environmental movements all across the globe that have met with success. India, Greece, China and Germany all have had massive public demonstrations in order to preserve their natural resources, and almost all of them have made substantial progress both politically and through renewable infrastructure now being built. The film’s main conflict is the differing ideas, or stories, of environmentalism told by the public and the governments/corporations in play. The idea is that nature is not a tool for men to use as they wish, but a frame in which men need to learn to exist without breaking down its borders.

Each of these pieces of art focused on a different aspect of the environmentalist fight, and each did it well, but the overarching message of the evening was extremely cohesive. The issue of environmental justice has roots both locally and globally: it is a fight infamous for its hardship but the future is hopeful.

Afterward, there was a panel that discussed everything from the current economic forces that harm working class America to ways in which to promote environmentalist outreach on a local scale. Regardless of where your views fall on climate change, the Downstream Film Series presents a compelling story and argument regarding contemporary environmentalism. In order to have an educated opinion on a topic, you need to expose yourself to any and every opinion on said topic.

So, if you happen to have a few free hours on your hands, I recommend looking up these films and giving them a watch.

womack2@stolaf.edu