Educating About Environmental Issues Through Film


(Photo by Conor Barry)

(Photo by Conor Barry)
(Photo by Conor Barry)

Deep within the Sacramento Valley, the Yuba River runs for over 40 miles. Located near the Southern fork of that river — where the water cascades over rocks and flows under bridges — is the Southern Yuba River Citizens League.
SYRCL is a community organization that campaigns to defend the South Yuba River from damage and restore the river to its natural state.
The non-profit group, originally formed with the purpose of working on these water issues in California, has sought ways to educate the community on various environmental issues. The group hosted a film festival at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday.
Jennifer Watt, associate director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program, said she has hosted the Wild & Scenic Film Festival for three years.
“It’s like a film festival in a box,” Watt said. “It was initially started by SYRCL and can now be hosted for a fee at various locations across the country.”
Every year, filmmakers from across the United States submit environmental films to the non-profit organization. The best films are selected and pooled together, categorized by different issues such as air quality, water preservation and environmental change. The films are then selected by the group hosting the festival to be previewed on the night of the event.
Watt said she uses her leadership class students to help organize and manage the event as well as select the films.
Daniel McCool, director of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program and a professor of political science, assists and does the introduction at the festival.
“The purpose of the film festival is to educate and entertain about issues that affect us, our planet and our future,” McCool said. “We also raise money for a student scholarship fund.”
At Thursday’s event, two full hours of films were selected.
“The films are exceptionally creative while still being informative,” McCool said. “It is an enjoyable way to take in a lot of useful information while having a great night out at the movies.”
The films dealt with various issues, ranging from a film about reclaimed water and its benefits and downsides to a film about natural gas extractions, their side effects and how communities in Utah are affected by it.
“We wanted to choose between a natural gas film and a coal film, which both deal with issues found in Utah,” McCool said.
The festival closed out with an adventure film.
“The students wanted everyone in attendance to leave the festival on an upbeat note and with a positive message,” Watt said.
All proceeds from ticket sales and items sold in a raffle go towards the Environmental and Sustainable Studies department scholarship.
“I hope people will walk away from it with a better understanding of important environmental issues and feel inspired to learn more, to get involved and think about their own lifestyle,” McCool said.
“The Film Festival is a great event for students to feel a part of the campus community,” Watt said. “[It is] an opportunity to socialize with peers and faculty, making for an educational, yet enjoyable event.”
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