Discussion panel members (left to right): Tom Desch, Dr. Kenneth Schoon, Patricia Wisniewski, and Dr. Amy McCormack, President of CCSJ. (Photo: Linda Gajewski)
The seventh annual One Earth Film Festival, the Midwest’s premier environmental film festival, officially begins with a “Green Carpet Gala” on Friday, March 2 and runs through March 11, 2018.
The festival coincides with CCSJ’s spring break and features dozens of free or affordable film screenings throughout Chicagoland.
But the festival began at Calumet College of St. Joseph with a pre-festival screening of the documentary “Shifting Sands: On The Path to Sustainability” (Shifting Sands). Nearly 80 people attended the screening and the panel discussion that followed.
Festival director Ana Garcia-Doyle says that, “We are a festival that uses film as a catalyst for conversation, for awareness raising, and ultimately for acting on behalf of our one and only planet.”
Encouraged by the increased number of volunteers and partners, this year’s festival theme is “This is the moment”. The festival features over 30 films including “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste”, “Rise: Sacred Water, Standing Rock” ; “Jane”, and “Dolores”.
Shifting Sands provides the history of ecological science in Indiana, which predates the Great Depression.
In 1889, John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, built the world’s largest refinery in Whiting Crossing and in the year it opened, also established the University of Chicago.
The industry that brought prosperity to Indiana also polluted the surrounding environment. The lakes and rivers of northern Indiana became so polluted that there was no natural wildlife living in them anymore. To demonstrate how bad pollution had gotten, one activist in the film stuck his hand in the water and when he pulled it out it was completely covered in oil.
In the early 1900s, Henry Chandler Cowles was a professor at the University of Chicago. He studied the Indiana dunes and his work inspired efforts to preserve them.
The natural environment that exists in the Indiana dunes is unique because its biodiversity includes flora and fauna from 10 different ecosystems. The most unique feature in the area is called “dune and swale”. Dr. Kenneth Schoon, Professor Emeritus of Science Education at Indiana University Northwest, compares the dune and swale topography to corduroy with its parallel ridges and alternating elevations and moisture.
The conservation efforts of Indiana residents resulted in legislation that helped prevent future environmental devastation. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 was inspired by Cowles’s study of the Indiana dunes. This was the first time a government passed legislation to protect the environment. From that moment on, new developments would have to seriously consider their effect on the environment. The National Environmental Policy Act inspired further environmental legislation in the U.S. and around the world.
After the presentation, audience members were encouraged to discuss the film. This facilitated a public discussion, which had the atmosphere of a CCSJ classroom.
Patricia Wisniewski, the filmmaker of Shifting Sands, was part of a panel present to discuss the movie with the audience. The other members of the panel were Dr. Kenneth Schoon, author of the book Shifting Sands: The Restoration of the Calumet Area, Tom Desch, producer of the film Shifting Sands, and Michael Puente, CCSJ adjunct professor and reporter for WBEZ Chicago Public Media.
Ms. Wisniewski share memories of swimming in a polluted body of water in her youth. She described emerging from the water covered by a shimmering oil sheen.
She discovered that there are hundreds of people working to protect and restore our environment. Her hope is that the younger generation is inspired to continue the conservation efforts because “biodiversity is the insurance policy for the planet.”
As the subtitle states, the ideas presented in the film provide a path to sustainability. There is still plenty of work to be done.
To view the list of events and reserve tickets please visit oneearthfilmfest.org.
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