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Friday, November 15, 2013

Storytelling for Change - Notes from the Nov 2013 "1st Tuesday"

By volunteer, Bob Herbert
The Methow Conservancy’s "First Tuesday" program for November was filled to capacity with people eager to learn more about our resident film makers Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele.  Benj and Sara have started a project called Facing Climate Change and it focuses on the affects that global warming is having on northwest communities and tribes.  They have adopted a short film format that focuses on how global warming and climate change is affecting people’s lives and their livelihoods.  The average length of their mindfully created productions is just over four minutes, which means they are able to distribute them through the many social media networks.  

"Oyster Farmers: Facing Climate Change"
The first film we watched spotlighted a family owned oyster farm that was forced to relocate their hatchery due to increasing acidity in the oceans.  It is estimated that 25% of the carbon dioxide that has been produced through the emission of greenhouse gases has been absorbed by the oceans.  The increased levels of CO2 have lowered the pH and it is happening faster than climatologists expected.  The acidity of the Puget Sound is actually increasing faster than other areas due to the strong ocean upwelling that occurs here.  The colder the water, the higher the concentration of CO2.  The owners watched their oyster spawn decrease year after year.  Young oysters were struggling to survive in the acidic water; in some cases their thin shells would dissolve.  The family finally made the decision to open a hatchery in Hilo, HI.  They knew the pH would continue to drop so they were forced to relocate their oyster farm to an area where the ocean is warmer and acidification has not had as big of an impact.  

Plateau Tribes: Facing Climate Change
The next film focused on the Umatilla tribe of northeastern Oregon.  The Umatilla tribe has made a commitment to maintain the purity and availability of the First Foods given to the Indian people of North America.  They live in the high plains and they dig the same roots and gather the same berries as did their ancestors.  To this day, the Umatilla serve the same roots, berries, and salmon in their long houses, in the same exact order in which they were received from the Creator countless generations ago.  They share the First Foods with their brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom and they have made a promise to preserve these sacred foods for all.  This may become increasingly more difficult with time however, as the temperature continues to climb here in the northwest.  The Umatilla fear that the roots and berries will be forced into higher elevations, or even become extinct, and the quantity and quality of salmon suffers when water temperature increases.  The boundaries of their reservation will not change with the climate, so the future of the Umatilla’s food source depends on whether or not the developed countries of the world are will to do the right thing and address climate change once and for all. 

Benjamin and Sara’s films tell a personal, localized story.  This format is an extremely effective way of getting a message across in a short amount of time, and the stories they tell should be heard by as many people as possible.  More details about their Facing Climate Change series (which also includes films about coastal tribes and potato farmers) is available to watch at their website - - and I urge you to check them out.   

Sara and Benj also showed the audience two films in their work for TEAM Network, a global web of field stations that provide an early warning system for loss of biodiversity in tropical forests.  Badru's Story was an official selection at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival and was also shown at the Mountainfilm Festival.  

Our natural history-loving crowd got a kick out of Benj and Sara's unique interviews called "The Natural History Project."  See a short film and/or listen to 15 different interviews at the website.

Thanks again Sara Joy Steele and Benjamin Drummond for sharing your films and thank you for the tireless work you are doing for the planet and its inhabitants!