Ten Square Miles

An Environmental Activism Resource

Author: Corinne Sherwood

Can You Guess Which Of These Companies Are The Most Climate Friendly?

Buzzfeed just put out an interesting quiz, and I was surprised by some of the results. Here.

Should We Hold On To Hope?

With the abundance of facts, figures, and realities we have learned about this semester, is it possible to still have hope for our future and our children’s future? I think it depends on who you ask. A pessimist is going to give you a different answer than an optimist.

I like to consider myself an optimist and I definitely have hope for the future. But a better future isn’t going to come easily. Just because we now know about this stuff, doesn’t mean it’s going to magically go away. It’s time for action.

Dealing With Republican Relatives

Since becoming more politically and environmentally conscious this semester, thanks to the upcoming election and our environmental film course, I have become almost hyperaware of the opinions of my extended family and how much I disagree with them on most subjects. Some of them even support Donald Trump which is scary to me. Sometimes I wonder how I’m related to them at all.

But anyway, I have had some recent Facebook arguments regarding climate change and global warming. I received the typical responses such as “global warming is bullshit” and just general comments about Al Gore’s “creepy eyes” whatever that means.  I argued back with facts and figures but no one was swayed. It’s very disheartening to know that your family members don’t seem to care about the future of the earth, but they would rather talk about their right to own a firearm.

I guess I’m just curious how other people deal with their republican relatives. Do you whole-heartedly argue with them? Ignore them? Humor them? What do you think is the best approach?

Gasland

Gasland is a 2010 documentary created by Josh Fox. The film explores the crisis of hydraulic fracking in the United and States, showing its devastating effects on people’s health and livelihood. The film offers details about the process of fracking in an informative and simple way, and explains the hundreds of deadly chemicals and carcinogens that are making many people sick. Fox also explores how there seems to be some kind of corporate cover-up when it comes to this catastrophe. Gasland is a performative documentary. Josh Fox makes himself known in the documentary as well as narrates him. We frequently see him holding his camera and talking to his subjects, as well as participating in the “science experiments” that his subjects have created with their contaminated water, such as lighting the tap water on fire or burning water to make plastic. Also, at the beginning of the documentary Fox tells us that he was sent a letter where he was offered almost $100,000 to lease his land in order to frack, so he is personally affected by this as well.

The documentary is filmed in a handheld style with a few static shots as well. It is very raw and gritty, which shows the gross subject matter that Josh Fox is dealing with. It also feels very personal, and when watching it, you don’t feel very separated from the problem. Fox goes into people’s houses and talks with them in a casual manner. There are no indications of formal interviews. I think this is a pro with the film. Being up close and personal with these struggling people puts it into perspective, I think. Seeing the subjects in their homes, talking to their friends, family, and neighbors, shows that they are serious about what’s happening to their water and that they are terrified for their health. A few of the subjects had farms as well so the contaminated water not only affects their health but also their animals’ health, they’re income, and their ability to sell their land. Josh Fox shows us that he attempts to get the other side of the story. There is a montage at the beginning of the film showing him on the phone calling various gas companies and people in order to get their side, but no one wants to talk to him. Later in the film he tries to talk to a higher-up in his office but he then says that he’ll talk off the record but he will not appear on the documentary. This only emphasizes the insidious, apparent cover-up and maybe-conspiracy.

The only con I can find in the film is its editing style. While I think it works some of the time, the rest of the time it made the film a tiny bit confusing. For example, Josh Fox will be visiting with one family and then all of a sudden he’ll be on another family’s farm and it takes a minute to realize it. This does not hinder my understanding of the larger message, however, which is the most important thing.

 

Cowspiracy

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a documentary by Kip Andersen that explores animal agriculture and its devastating effects on the environment and climate change. We find out that animal agriculture is the number one problem that humans should be attempting to fix when it comes to environmental destruction. Despite its significant impact, conservation groups such as Greenpeace and The Sierra Club do not seem to know anything about it, and if they do know something, they are hiding it for some reason. A lot of this film is participatory because it is focused a lot on Kip Andersen’s interaction and conversations with his subjects. He talks to several people on both sides of the argument such as a doctor who highly recommends a vegan lifestyle and cattle ranchers that don’t think what they do has a carbon footprint. A part of the film is also Kip’s personal journey into this subject. He sees an animal slaughter for the first time and frequently says during the film, “I still don’t know…”

The pros outweigh the cons in my opinion. The film offered facts and statistics as well as personal opinions and stories. We hear from both sides of the story as well. And while some might argue that both sides were not fairly represented, the film does not need both sides. The point of any film or documentary, whether implicitly or explicitly, is to have some kind of argument or opinion and Cowspiracy does that successfully. The film also did something that not a lot of films do which is follow the Aristotelian triangle. The triangle says that to have a cohesive and valuable argument you need, logic, ethics, and emotion. This documentary has all three, and it sells it.

There were a few cons with the film. One that stands out is the question of whether everyone can afford to have a sustainable lifestyle such as going vegan. A vegan diet is expensive and the film does not address that. If you or your family is struggling with finances, sometimes it is a lot easier to just get a burger off the dollar menu at Mcdonalds. That being said, however, if you have the financial capabilities and you have the will and the want to change the world, there should be no excuse for at least trying to eat differently. The film mentions “feeding your addiction” which is something I’ve never thought about before. We tend to not think of human beings being addicted to meat but we are to extent. We love to eat it and we are sold on the idea that it is the best way to get your protein. As aforementioned, it is sometimes the cheapest way to get your protein but hopefully one day we can get to a point where affordable plant-based food become the norm and are affordable to everybody.

I consider myself an impressionable person, but I like to think I’m impressionable on the right things. This film made an impression on me, and if making a sincere effort to eat vegetarian and someday vegan is something I can do for the environment, then I’m going to do it. One of my favorite foods is steak, but I think living a sustainable and green lifestyle is much more worth it in the end.

Going Vegan

After watching Cowspiracy, I am seriously considering transitioning to a vegan diet. The film made a very strong impression on me and the facts were indisputable. If there is another thing I can do to do my part in the fight for the environment then I’m going to try.

In the Spring 2015 semester I went vegetarian for a month just to see if I could, and it was not as difficult as I imagined. I only stopped because I went to give blood, and they said my iron levels were low, so I went back to eating red meat. If I start this again I just have eat more green veggies and iron-rich foods that aren’t meat. I hope to eventually be vegan, but it’s going to be super hard considering one of my favorite foods is cheese, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

A Fierce Green Fire

A Fierce Green Fire, directed by Mark Kitchell, and produced by Zoetrope Aubry Productions in 2012, is a documentary that takes a look at the history of the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the world. The film is split us into five acts, each narrated by a different person including Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and Ashley Judd. Each act is an explorations of different facets of the environmental movement. They are conservation, pollution, alternative energies, issues in other countries, and climate change.

This film is an educational film. While watching it, I was reminded of the documentaries that I would watch in high school and there would be a worksheet to follow. This format seems to be what people imagine when they hear the word documentary. There are narrators, talking heads, and archival footage. The only original footage from the filmmaker, it seemed, was the talking heads sequences. All the other visuals that the viewer gets are archival footage. The entire film was different from anything that we have watched in the class so far. As of now we have seen documentaries exploring a single issue concerning the state of our environment whether it is fracking, dams, or global warming. This film gives the viewer an all encompassing perspective on the environmental movement in a different context than we are used to seeing. We usually look at from the side of what the issues are, and this is what’s in store for us in the future if we do not act. This film takes place on the other side. We see what has already been done with these critical issues and the movements that have taken place in our history. It is easy for some people to think that the environmental movement is new and maybe even a phase or a fad. This film exposes us to the truth which is that people have been recognizing these problems for decades, have been angry about it, and have done something about it. For example, the film focuses for a time on Love Canal, a neighborhood in upstate New York that was found to be sitting on 22,000 tons of buried toxic waste from the Hooker Chemical Company. This was causing numerous birth defects, miscarriages, and illnesses within the neighborhood. Lois Gibbs, a member of the Homeowner’s Association there decided that this was unacceptable and began a movement for federally funded relocation. She rallied the community and it made national news. She succeeded in getting the funding and this is only one example in the film of grassroots movements and demonstrations. One weakness I found with the film was that it seemed to be too much information packed into one film that was not effectively strung together. If Kitchell is going to split the film into five acts, he might as well turn the film into a miniseries in order to explore each act more in depth and get more perspectives and individual stories.

I really enjoyed this film and it was nice to watch a different type of film than we have been watching. Seeing the small things that people have started and watching them grow into something moving and powerful was incredible to watch. It also did a good job of reminding me that we are not of the woods yet when it comes to saving the planet. All the people in the documentary had their small victories and even some big victories, but there are still things to be done in 2015 and hopefully keeping the momentum that’s been here for decades going then small victories will eventually lead up to some more big victories.

December??

December 2015 so far has been incredibly warm. There has been no snow at all. I believe there was one day in October where there were some flurries but they never stuck to the ground. Ithaca, Ny, a place known for its cold and snow, has seen none of it. I asked for new snow boots for Christmas so now I’m wondering when I’ll get to use them. Weather.com posted an article about these unseasonably high temperatures. Here.  Here is another article that talks about cherry blossoms in December. Click. There have been hundreds of records broken around the country. Are we seeing global warming in action? Quite possibly. I would put money on it.

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