Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Author: Alec Salisbury (page 1 of 2)

Damnation – Environmental Film Response

060114_damnationlThe documentary film Damnation by Travis Rummel and Ben Knight looks into the large dams of the United States and the effect they have on the river ecosystems. Released in 2014, it highlights the problems of the old dams but also explains how removing them significantly helps the environment there. As the film notes in the beginning, it was financed by Patagonia, which helped give it a higher budget and opportunities. This is one of its weaknesses however, as defined by the class. The documentary is composed of many shots of actual dams, interviews, and hand-held camera work. It is most definitely an advocacy documentary because it presents an issue with a clear statement on where the film stands. Ben Knight is also taking part in the documentary and so it becomes participatory, along with performative since he is in the story as well. Though some people disagreed, the film allowed unaware people to learn some information about the problem and also show how it can be fixed.

As one would imagine when watching a film about dams, the film is essentially entirely all shots of dams. The film is composed of beautiful shots along with interviews that, for the most part, help enlighten the viewer even more as well as provide some humor. The strongest point is definitely the quality of the shots; compared to Gaslands, this film is cinematic and it makes it appear more calm. I can understand how the cinematography was utilized for a unique purpose in each film, but I prefer a more cinematic shooting style. A weakness that the class pointed out is that the film is produced by Patagonia, yet I found that there was almost no reference to Patagonia other than the “disclaimer” in the beginning of the film. The one shot of Ben Knight with his RED camera in the woods was unnecessary, but a 4 second shot doesn’t always ruin a film. Most of the films viewed in class are effective in conveying a message and showing the audience how they can start to think about change. Damnation very clearly outlined the problem that dams make, and at the end it was a hopeful ending. It wasn’t entirely oblivious or too hopeful, but it didn’t make you depressed that there actually was no solution.

Since I personally really enjoyed Damnation, particularly the cinematography, I had to try and see my classmates’ perspectives because while they also liked the cinematography, they didn’t think it was an effective film. In relation to Manufactured Landscapes, I thought the advertising in this film was very minimal, mainly the reference to Patagonia in the beginning and the shots of the RED camera. Manufactured Landscapes was completely about a photographer and showed his work, but I don’t think people will react to it the same way. With the great cinematography, I was able to think about what was being said more than how much I disliked the footage, like with Gaslands. Overall, I think the film is effective for certain people and does convey information, but some might be less impressed with the product placement and also a limited output of information.

Climate Change is Melting Hollywood’s Winter Shoots

Hollywood is an industry filled with studio heads and auteur directors who

thrive on control. However a new problem has risen in many films shooting this

year that can’t be controlled and that is Mother Nature. Climate change has been

making it difficult for many of the winter shoots this year because of melting snow.

The executive producer on FX’s hit TV show Fargo, Warren Littlefield, talked about

how when they filmed the first season in Calgary in 2013 it was reportedly negative-

35 degrees. However when filming the second season the next year it was nearly 70

degrees warmer and there were many days where it didn’t even fall to the freezing

point. “We were sending trucks into the mountains to load them up with snow and

bring them down to our locations,” Littlefield said.


Many other films this year are finding the same problems. Alejandro Iñárritu’s

The Revenant had to halt production for a couple of weeks due to terrible weather

conditions. The team even had to go on a global search to find snowy locations to shoot

Not only that, but Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight also endured

unfortunate weather problems. The crew was promised that their shooting location,

Telluride, Colorado, would be covered in snow by the time they started filming. Sadly,

the area got a record low amount of snow that year and they had to redo their shooting



Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who works for Slate, says climate change may

affect Hollywood in several ways: The frequency of extreme weather makes it

harder to predict which areas of the world may have snow, rain, or sunny days

during any given month. And Hollywood may not be able to rely on “locations that

are nearby and cheap to film, where it has filmed for decades,”

I found this article incredibly interesting and had no idea that the film

industry was being impacted this heavily by climate change. The fact that these top

tier, auteur directors are running into to this many weather problems just shows

how uncontrollable this has become. It will be interesting to see if we see more films

impacted by climate change causing studios to produce less films set in snowy or

winter settings.


For more information check out this article:




Article by Matt Alchin

Show and Tell 2025 | Environmental Sustainability | GetUp! Australia

Pollution Is Segregated Too

Studies dating back to the 1970s have pointed to a consistent pattern in who lives near the kinds of hazards —  toxic waste sites, landfills, congested highways — that few of us would willingly choose as neighbors. The invariable answer: poor people and communities of color.

This pattern of “environmental injustice” suggests that minorities may contend every day with disproportionate health risks from tailpipe exhaust or coal plant emissions. But these health risks are harder to quantify than, say, the number of power plants in a city. And most of the research that has tried to do this has been limited to a single metropolitan area, or to those few places that happen to have good monitoring data on pollution…. Continue reading here

Allegheny College – An Eco Friendly School

8049051645_ef056ad2cc_kAllegheny College in northwestern Pennsylvania is known for being one of Pennsylvania’s most eco-friendly schools. Although the college is small with less than 2,000 students, there is no shortage of talent or diverse interests and one student, second year Amanda Fallon, is staying true to Allegheny’s motto of “unusual combinations” by combining her love of art and environmentalism.picture-5

In a recent post, Fallon shares an art piece with an important environmental message. Fallon writes, “”There are roughly 332,519,000 cubic miles of water left on Earth, and 321,001,271 cubic miles are salt water, leaving 11,515,729 of usable fresh water (NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center). I scaled this down, collecting approximately 11.5 ml of rainwater. After straining this through cotton, I began painting a reproduction of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus in watercolor with what remained after straining.” When asked why she strained the water through cotton, Fallon replied, “It was slightly dirty from where I collected it and I wanted it to be more refined to what we view as usable fresh water.”

After straining the water to a suitable fresh state, Fallon began her watercolor reproduction of Botticelli’s famous work. However, Fallon quickly ran out of water and rather than collecting more, decided to leave the piece unfinished as an important commentary on the use of our natural resources and the depletion of fresh water on our planet. “I quickly ran out of water and decided to leave the painting unfinished, fulfilling my expectation that I would leave hours of work incomplete due to a lack of resources. Though this is a very small scale compared to 11 million cubic miles of water, the analogy rings true of what is to become of what we hold dear should the depletion of our resources continue.”

Watercolor by Amanda Fallon

Watercolor by Amanda Fallon


The idea that Fallon conveys through this piece is that, should humanity continue consuming resources at the current rate, we will be left with a planet that greatly resembles an unfinished watercolor painting, beautiful from certain angles, desolate from others. Without water and other natural resources, humans will have to abandon years of careful planning and development just as Fallon abandoned hours of work for lack of resources. In a very simple and poignant way, Fallon shows what will become of humans if we are not more conscientious about our consumption of natural resources. It isn’t just the Earth’s beauty we stand to lose. It is life.

Article by Emily DeLucia

Opinion: 2016 Candidates Environmental Stances Wildly Vary

While the 2016 presidential election is still quite a ways off, the candidates have already made their opinions on environmental issues clear. This promises to be an exciting election, with powerhouse Hillary Clinton running against radical democratic socialist Bernie Sanders and a wide array of Republican candidates. The environmental stances of both Republican and Democratic candidates are varied and complex and it is important to know where the candidates stand on important environmental issues before the primaries.


One of the most consistent candidates on all things environmental is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Bernie has advocated for environmental issues since the beginning of his career and has taken a strong stance against carbon emissions and tax breaks for fossil fuel companies. Although he is met with constant opposition from both parties, Sanders continually pushes for climate and environmental protection acts. For example, in 2013, Sanders introduced the Climate Protection Act, a bill that would tax carbon and methane emissions, rebating the majority of it to citizens and investing in clean energy. Sanders has also been a major opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, something on which Clinton has been hesitant to take a stance. It seems Bernie has been the strongest environmental advocate of the current presidential candidates and has a long history of consistent advocacy. Sanders even asserted in the first democratic debate that climate change is the biggest threat to our nation and he is intent on change.lead_large

Clinton holds many of the same beliefs as Sanders. However, her environmental record is a little shakier than her biggest opponent. While she firmly believes in regulating carbon emissions and fossil fuel companies, she and her husband have also been ardent supporters of the Free Trade Agreement, an agreement that could undermine environmental laws in some nations and give major polluting companies too much power. Clinton supported this agreement as Secretary of State and now says she hasn’t made up her mind, as a presidential candidate. Between the Free Trade Agreement and the Keystone Pipeline XL, something on which she has only just recently taken a stance, her record of environmental advocacy seems geared towards getting votes rather than part of her fundamental beliefs.

While there are currently too many Republican candidates to count, businessman Donald Trump has emerged as a favorite among the republicans. Trump has avoided making his beliefs on the environment a part of his campaign platform, but he has not hesitated to be vocal about his beliefs for several years, even taking to twitter to share his idea that global warming is an elaborate and expensive hoax. His evidence is that the world is cold. He believes because some areas are experiencing record low temperatures and because, at one point, he happened to be in Los Angeles when it was a little chilly, climate change is a myth. Trump time and time again proves that he fails to understand the basic science and proven evidence behind climate change. It is safe to say that this candidate will not be a strong environmental advocate and will undoubtedly do everything in his power to defund renewable energy plans in favor of fossil fuels.donald-trump-climate-change

From the Republican party, Jeb Bush seems to be a popular candidate. Bush, unlike Trump, acknowledges the fact that climate change is real. However, Bush does not think the science on climate change is sound and does not believe we have an accurate idea of what percentage of pollution is man­made and what percentage is natural. His ideas may be slightly more progressive than Trumps, believing that countries with increased carbon emissions should cut back, but he does not believe the U.S. is part of the issue, despite evidence that the United States contributes to 30% of worldwide pollution. Bush believes the U.S. has cut back on pollution because of natural gas extraction from hydraulic fracturing, of it which Bush is a strong proponent.Jeb_Bush_by_Gage_Skidmore_3

Stances on climate change are widely varied amongst the republican and democratic candidates for this upcoming election, but it is important to remember that no matter who you vote for and or what you believe, it is important to vote nonetheless. Good luck to all the candidates and I hope we begin to see some real environmental change.

Post written by Emily DeLucia.

Dramatic Turn in Legal Case Against Chevron


Crude is a 2009 American documentary film directed and produced by Joe Berlinger. It follows a two-year portion of an ongoing class action lawsuit against the Chevron Corporation in Ecuador. The plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit are 30,000 Ecuadorians living in the Amazonian rainforest who claim their ancestral homeland has been polluted by the oil industry. In addition to the legal struggle, Crude shows interviews from representatives of the plaintiffs and defendants of the class action lawsuit, and explores the influence of media support such as Vanity Fair, celebrity activism, including support from musical artist Sting and his wife Trudie Styler, the power of multinational corporations, the shifting power in Ecuadorian politics, and rapidly disappearing indigenous cultures explored in the movie.

This multi-decade case just took a dramatic turn.  Documents publicized Monday reveal that the star witness in the case admitted, to lying under oath in an effort to help Chevron avoid paying a $9.5 billion judgment for deliberate pollution of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Read more about this new revelation and watch the film trailer below.

Taming The Teesta

Taming The Teesta is a marvelous film made by Ithaca College student Taylor Graham. About the film, he writes, “Since time immemorial, the Lepcha people have called the Himalayan region that makes up the modern state of Sikkim their home and have held sacred the rivers, mountains, and forests that make up the biologically diverse region. Over the past two decades, India’s rapid development has generated a powerful thirst for electricity, and the country has increasingly looked to the cold, powerful rivers thundering from the Himalayas to supply that desired power. Hydroelectric projects have been proposed and implemented throughout the Himalayan region. Nowhere, however, are the dams as numerous or their effects as acutely felt as in India’s northwestern state of Sikkim, where a ‘cascade’ of run-of-the-river hydroelectric projects is springing into existence. There, on the Teesta River, multiple dam projects threaten the rich biodiversity of the region, the livelihoods of those who live along the Teesta’s course, and the very existence of the Lepcha people’s most cherished river.”

Stay tuned for a Q & A video of Taylor speaking about his film. We were lucky enough to have Taylor visit our class and take questions after screening this film.


An Inconvenient Truth – Environmental Film Response


An Inconvenient Truth is a film about the PowerPoint Al Gore has been giving for over a decade on the topic of climate change. While a film about a PowerPoint sounds incredibly unexciting, it is anything but. An Inconvenient Truth tells a story as gripping as a suspenseful thriller, with the dangers of a real life nightmare. Davis Guggenheim, alongside Participant Media, also use Gore’s human points to drive home the arguments and keep the audience engaged.

The overarching message of the film is that global warming is real and must be dealt with soon if we have any hope of reversing it. We must keep social context in mind while critiquing this film. Many of the points he makes may seem common knowledge now, but in 2006 popular opinion was much different. The media had created confusion and portrayed climate change as the delusion of hippies tree huggers. Gore refutes this idea with the fact out of more than 900 peer reviewed articles, zero denied the validity of global warming. It is made abundantly clear through graphs and facts that global warming is not just a natural cycle, another myth perpetrated by the media.inconvenienttruth1

The conflict of the film is the inaction in fighting climate change despite the obvious evidence. Al Gore says, “I don’t really consider this a political issue, I consider it to be a moral issue. Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves, “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now.” This nonpartisan approach to the topic aides in establishing Gore’s credibility. It shows he has no vested interest in either political party by fighting for the cause.

An Inconvenient Truth is different in many ways to the film Home, despite sharing the same topic. The most striking difference is in the storytelling approach. Home relies on striking visuals and a smooth voice over to convey its message. By viewing the beauty and wonder of the world alongside the destruction, the authors are trying to shock you into action. An Inconvenient Truth on the other hand, involves a more analytical look at the subject. By mere reasoning and appealing to your moral side, it is attempting to persuade you into action.

Technically speaking, the visuals of An Inconvenient Truth aren’t impressive nor unimpressive. The film was shot well, which allows the visuals to get out of the way so that the viewer can focus on the story and content. What was very impressive was the PowerPoint presentation. It is full of moving graphics which serve as an attention grabber and makes his argument more persuasive. It is almost hard to call it a PowerPoint presentation because the visuals of it are so extravagant.

While a skeptic of global warming may see the film as biased, I don’t believe Davis Guggenheim was biased at all in his approach to the story. The film certainly is on the side of climate change being a real problem, but that is only because Al Gore believes in it and his argument for it is the crux of the film. The filmmaking itself was very impartial.

800px-Al_Gore,_Vice_President_of_the_United_States,_official_portrait_1994The only major critique I have for the film is the lack of solutions it presented. At the end of the film, I felt inspired to do something, but I wasn’t given a direct call to action. In the credits it was suggested that we do things like recycle and elect better politicians, but these don’t seem like concrete solutions. I must recognize that the purpose of this film was not to find solutions, but rather raise the issue of climate change. Like it is stated above, in 2006 the validity of global warming was even more contested and confusing than it is today. This film certainly succeeded if the goal was to raise awareness for the cause. One of the minor critiques I have for the film is some of the science was wrong or inaccurate. My first example is when Gore claimed “Within the decade, there will be no more snow on Kilimanjaro.” Today, in 2015, Mt. Kilimanjaro still holds snow. The second error is that he claimed you could see the change with your naked eye on the Antarctic ice cores after the U.S. Clean Air was passed. Scientists have stated that you cannot see it with the naked eye. This is a minor critique which does not take away from the overall message.

One of the most common critiques of this film by both my peers and other reviewers is that Al Gore’s personal story was unnecessary to the film. Some claim the film served as a commercial to a 2008 presidential run, which we now know it didn’t. I disagree with the critique that the personal vignettes were unnecessary. The personal vignettes help establishing Al Gore’s credibility. It shows how dedicated he is to the cause, how he has done the research and should be listened to. These excerpts turned an inspiring PowerPoint presentation into an ever more inspiring film that holds our attention until the end. Lastly, these vignettes strengthen his argument. In one example, he relates how his family didn’t stop growing tobacco until his sister’s death from lung cancer in the 1980s. He explains how this tragedy taught him how humans tend to not want to change what they’re doing until sometime goes terribly wrong. “It’s human nature to take time to connect the dots, but eventually there’s a day of reckoning.”

In conclusion, while this film had a few flaws in the science and could be seen as an alarmist film, I enjoyed it. I agree completely with the message and the urgency of global warming. It is a gigantic threat and needs to be addressed immediately, not in twenty or thirty years as some politicians are saying. Ten years later, I believe we have not lived up to Al Gore’s hopes in generating the political will to make the change in politics. I’m not entirely sure how we are going to find the political will, but taking this course is a great first step in answering this question for myself.

Watch the trailer below:

Dam Nation – Environmental Film Response


Dam Nation argues that once a source of national pride, dams are  harmful to the ecosystem our future is bound to. Like many viewers, Ben Knight (the co-director and narrator) was “embarrassed” at how little he knew about dams before making the film. Knight’s awakening is shared with the audience in an attempt to educate the viewers about the benefits of dam removal.

The film does not go into too much “depth” in  any of the subject matter. But the overarching message remains the same. It’s argued that while dams may be labeled as “green power” they often come at an unacceptable cost. This cost is the variety, population, and prosperity of native fish. Not to mention, the destruction of natural wonders and the decimation of tribal land. Knight presents his argument through stunning cinematography, convincing facts, and animated graphics. The film stays within the confines of the United States, but with 75,000 dams over three feet tall, there is no shortage of material.

While this film delivers a convincing argument towards dam removal, and may very well be on the right side of history, it falls short in addressing opposing viewpoints. Instead of engaging the opposition and arguing the facts, the filmmakers ignored them and portrayed them as a bunch of old white conservatives. It may have been possible to more cleverly integrate the opposition into the film in a way which supported their own argument.

Secondly, the filmmakers ignored many of the core benefits of dams. Dams can be a great alternative to coal and gas power, despite the potential harm to the fish and submersion of land. Most dams also served a good purpose when they were first built in the early 1900s. The filmmakers did mention that they weren’t advocating for the removal of all dams, but more time should have been spent on where to draw the line.
While many environmental documentaries lower the audience into a dark abyss at the conclusion, this film ends with a myriad of explosions and an optimistic outlook to the future of dam removal. What’s also unusual about this documentary is how it was financed. Patagonia, an outdoor sportswear company, spent $500,000 to produce the film and even more on the marketing campaign. Patagonia says that they are not expecting to make any of this money back.. Patagonia is one of many companies attempting to be environmentally conscious and responsible. This is admirable and can positively shape the perception of the company.

Regardless of some of the critiques, Dam Nation does do a great job of raising attention to the issue and advocating for change. Dams can be harmful to the environment and a discussion should take place regarding the removal of many of them. While the film advocates for change, serious solutions aren’t really given. A phone number is provided at the end of the film, which ultimately sends a link to a petition, but that’s pretty much it. But given that the purpose of this film was the raise the issue, solutions weren’t the major goal.

Dam Nation is on Netflix, so go give it a watch! The trailer can be viewed below:

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