Mountain View Voice

News - January 21, 2011

Teens make splash with ocean film fest

High school festival organizers hope to encourage conservation

by Nick Veronin

Two environmentally minded student clubs at Mountain View High School are hosting a film festival and town hall-style discussion to explore how humanity is contributing to the ecological degradation of world's oceans and aquatic life, and offer potential solutions to the problem.

The Ocean Film Festival, which will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. Friday evening, Jan. 21, in the Mountain View High School Theatre, is co-hosted by the school's Environmental Club and the Save the Sharks Club.

"Our oceans are filled with some of the most spectacular forms of life on this planet, and because of the effects of global warming and other trends, the whole marine ecosystem is in jeopardy," Katherine Guns, one of the student organizers, said in a press release. " It's time we do something about it."

To educate those who attend, three films — possibly more, if time allows — will be shown at the free event. According to a press release, the festival's centerpiece film, "Bag It," follows "an average American guy" who pledges to quit using plastic bags, which ultimately leads him "on a global tour to unravel the complexities of our plastic world."

Two shorter films discuss whales, and argue for the cessation of whaling worldwide.

Afterward a panel will discuss the topics covered in the films. The panel will include Dr. Geoff Shester and Wallace J. Nichols, representatives from conservation organizations Oceana and Ocean Revolution respectively.

Every other week, Mountain View residents wheel blue recycling bins — filled with plastic containers, glass bottles, aluminum cans and assorted paper products — out to the curb to be scooped up by the rumbling collection truck and carried off to be transformed back into more bottles, boxes and book pages.

But before her neighbors pat themselves on the back for being so green, Mary Heeney said they need to hear the entire story.

"All of those cargo ships that come from China carrying tons and tons of plastic products into the port of Oakland every day, and when they leave they are full of empty plastic containers," she said.

These ships then head back to China, perhaps passing by the massive blob of floating debris — known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — on their way.

The amount of energy used to transport American recyclables overseas to be melted down, turned into more plastic and shipped right back is just one example of inefficiency and waste in America's waste management system to be covered at the Ocean Film Festival.

Heeney spearheaded the festival as part of Be the Change, a project sponsored by Acterra, a Palo Alto-based environmental organization that works to engage community members in local green projects.

She says she felt a call to action after spending time swimming with whales and witnessing ocean life up close.

"I believe that because we have the brain that we do, we have responsibility to care for the Earth and also care for the creatures we are living with," she said. "But first we have to convince people that there is a problem."

She hopes that the films will convince viewers that humans — especially Americans — are living in a way that is unsustainable. Furthermore, she hopes those who attend will see that they can make a difference.

"We throw up our arms and say 'I feel like this is such a huge task and the little thing that I do can't really matter,'" Heeney said. "But it does. By setting examples and working together I think we can get this done."

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