sustainablespu

Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese


Sustainability & Film: Mad Max and Water Wars


(Spoiler alert* If you haven’t seen it I don’t want to ruin it for you, go watch it*)

*Mad Max Fury Road contains violence and some nudity, it is rated R, suggested for ages 16 and up because it has intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images.*

“Do not, my friends, become addicted to water. It will take hold of you, and you will resent its absence!” –Immortan Joe

I recently watched the new Mad Max film and really enjoyed it. It’s not only an exciting action flick with great cinematography, it touches on social issues in ways that I was not expecting at all. If you have read reviews of the plot, you know that the setting for the movies is a desert wasteland, and most of the film takes place across a wide expanse of empty land. The New Yorker has a great review has more to do with the plot and style of the film, but I’m going to focus on something the movie also shows us, the importance of water.

In other recent blog posts, I’ve touched on water use reduction and how our campus is doing our part, but this movie takes water scarcity to the extreme. Mad Max shows us that water is vital, when most of us take it for granted. I consistently fill up my water bottle with clean cold water (and I sometimes complain when it rains), but the characters in this film are for the most part very careful with their water. They clamor to fill bowls and pitchers when the aquifer rains down water on top of them.

Water scarcity is in the forefront of the plot and a driving force behind the way the characters travel in the movie. It is part of the reason they leave their location at the beginning of the movie, and finding water is the goal of their travelling. Although difficult for us in Seattle to imagine, this drought-stricken wasteland could be our possible future, and Hollywood’s focus on water scarcity is a way of warning us about our current problems. One of these problems is the privatization of water, which I plan to follow up on with an additional blog post as part of my water series.

An additional similarity is that water will be a source of conflict, and according to James Fergusson at Newsweek, this is already contributing to the unrest in the countries of Syria and Yemen.  His article goes into the history of how there have been many conflicts related to water scarcity.

This however does not just happen in the Middle East, but our own droughts in recent years have severely affected the state of California. Currently 61% of the state is an extreme or exceptional drought according to the United States Drought Monitor, and groundwater was until recently unregulated. This allowed land owners to do as much pumping of groundwater as they pleased. After the 2014 summer, the need for groundwater legislation came to the forefront to end the battling between landowners for water. California state legislation was passed in September of 2014 and then updated this year with Senate bill 13 that amends and clarifies previous Water Code sections of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. These changes create regulation of groundwater basins and provide a foundation for local agencies to limit excessive use of basin water. This is the first step in ensure water is used to keep people healthy and safe during warm months.

Mad Max Fury Road shows us the importance of respecting the resources we have, especially in light of our own water troubles. So the next time you turn on the faucet, think of that dry dusty landscape—and respect the water that comes out of that faucet for the valuable resource it is.

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Environmental Film Festival at SIFF


siff-logo1The Seattle International Film Festival is hosting a special night of environmental-themed film screenings, starting tomorrow (April 24th) at 5 p.m.. The showings will include a documentary called The Strong People detailing the efforts of those who removed the Elwha Dam, as well as Momenta, which discusses the potential impact of coal-exporting trains running through the Pacific Northwest, and several other films dealing with the natural world and humanity’s interaction with it. The “Wild and Scenic Film Festival,” as SIFF has deemed it, will be hosted at the Uptown Theatre in Lower Queen Anne. Look here to purchase tickets ($15).


Sustainability & Film: Frances Ha


Frances-Ha-film-stillIt’s hard to think of a better movie about the sustainability of youthful enthusiasm than Noah Baumbach’s simultaneously charming and distressing dramedy “Frances Ha.” While the post-college transition or non-transition into adulthood is a popular indie-movie theme (and one of my personal favorites), Frances Ha manages to examine it with a hand that is both hyper-realistic and graceful. Greta Gerwig gives one of my favorite performances of 2013 as Frances, a 27 year-old apprentice dancer who lives in Brooklyn with her best friend Sophie. With her dancing career not taking off as she had hoped, Frances’ friendship with Sophie acts as her mental cushion against a discouraging reality. This gets taken away from her when Sophie decides to move in with someone else, and Frances is forced to re-examine the state of her life. Continue reading


Sustainability & Film: Her


her-rooney-mara-600x337Writer-Director Spike Jonze’s Her is an altogether beautiful film. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should. One of the film’s themes, written with plenty of sharp insight by Jonze, is the sustainability of human relationships when the factor of individual growth and change is in play. This is reflected upon not only in main character Theodore’s (Joaquin Phoenix) past relationship with his ex-wife Catherine (Rooney Mara), but in the romance he develops with his new operating system Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), whose consciousness develops at a rate even faster than us humans. For two people to connect amidst an ocean of personal grey area is nothing short of miraculous. But how well can those entities stay connected when both of them are progressing in different ways, at different speeds? Continue reading


Sustainability & Film: Prince Avalanche


large_Prince_Avalanche_1_PUBSDirector David Gordon Green’s Prince Avalanche is set against the backdrop of a 1988 Texas wildfire, charred woodland making for a haunting and enveloping atmosphere that acts as the perfect stage for a quiet and meditative study on the relationship between the film’s two main characters. Alvin (a mustached Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch, seemingly competing in a Jack Black lookalike contest) are a couple of mismatched road-workers, stuck with each other as the two of them paint new lines on a rural highway. Party-focused Lance tells the straight-laced Alvin that he gets lonely out in the wilderness, but Alvin stays behind when Lance heads to the city for the weekend, saying that he “reaps the rewards of solitude.” Continue reading


Sustainability & Film: Wendy and Lucy


wendyKelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy focuses on a homeless woman (Wendy) and her dog (Lucy) as they get stuck in a struggling Oregon town on their way to Alaska. The film is truly a work of minimalism, featuring long sequences of nothing much happening as we follow Wendy (played with quiet power by Michelle Williams) around, and as someone with a tendency to space out, I’ll admit that the movie may demand a little extra effort from the viewer in terms of staying mentally “locked in” at all times. However, the effect of film’s minimalism is a strong one, creating a thick atmosphere of loneliness and emptiness that reflects what Wendy is feeling and seems true to what the homeless experience must be like. Continue reading


Film & Sustainability Series: The Day After Tomorrow and Climate Change


The_Day_After_Tomorrow

The movie that brought environmental issues to popular film — The Day After Tomorrow (2004). Though nearly a decade old, The Day After Tomorrow still reverberates in cinematic and the American psyche. This movie was one of the first blockbusters ever to center around a man-made ecological disaster.

Though it tends towards the didactic, this film greatly impacted our cultural awareness of global warming, and made the topic open for public discussion without political interference. Though The Day After Tomorrow does contain ideological points that are influenced by politics, the main concern is our impact upon the environment. Continue reading